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Coronavirus in Texas: State developing "clarity" on who qualifies for unemployment as businesses prepare to reopen

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Memorial Hermann Southeast employees are greeted by dozens of people honking their horns and flashing their lights in appreciation of their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Annie Mulligan for The Texas Tribune

Wednesday's biggest developments

  • Texas Workforce Commission could change unemployment qualifications
  • State expected to release latest number of Texans who have tested positive

Texas developing "clarity" on unemployment aid qualifications as businesses reopen

[5 a.m.] A Texas Workforce Commission spokesman said late Tuesday the agency is developing parameters for what might allow Texans to continue qualifying for unemployment insurance if they refuse to return to work at a business reopened by Gov. Greg Abbott’s loosened executive order because they fear contracting or spreading the coronavirus.

That statement came a day after The Texas Tribune reported that TWC officials said workers must be “willing and able to work all the days and hours” required of the job they are seeking and those who choose not to return to work at businesses reopened during the pandemic will become ineligible for unemployment aid. In the Tribune story Monday, agency spokesman Cisco Gamez said workers with concerns about their employer’s adherence to health guidelines should contact the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

But on Tuesday night, Gamez said that "on a case by case basis," the agency "may need to review" situations where workers aren’t comfortable returning to reopened businesses while the coronavirus still spreads through the community. He also said the agency is “working to develop clarity” on what “might constitute good cause” for not returning to a job. Without good cause, people aren't eligible for benefits, he said.

Gamez said he will provide more information as he gets it. — Clare Proctor

More than 26,000 Texans have tested positive for the new coronavirus

[5 a.m.] Texas officials are expected later Wednesday to release the latest numbers of Texans who have tested positive for the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, 26,171 Texans had tested positive and 690 had died. More than 80% of the state’s 254 counties have reported at least one case. See maps of the latest case numbers for each county and case rates per 1,000 residents.