Information for COVID-19 FAQ, Employers, Jobseekers, Self-Employed and Child Care

Frequently Asked Questions about Unemployment Insurance Benefits Related to COVID-19

We understand you have many questions and we have answers. See below for our most common FAQ section.  We will add to this daily as we answer your questions. Our number one priority is serving Texans—and everybody who is entitled to benefits will receive them.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused unprecedented changes to the lives of individuals all across Texas and across the globe. Since March 14, the Texas Workforce commission helped over 1 million Texans file unemployment claims which is equivalent to around 75 weeks of claims in a month’s time.

First and foremost, to those who have been laid off, are unsure about your employment situation or are worried for your business: we see you, we hear you and we are working around the clock to provide the resources and help that you need.

Prior to COVID-19, the average number of calls into the Texas Workforce Commission would be around 13,000 and the record number of calls in a day was 60,000. Last week, over 3 million calls were made to our 800 numbers in a 24-hour period. That number does not reflect the number of people applying for unemployment benefits, but the number of times people are calling.

We are expanding both our technological and staff capabilities to meet our current needs. We have extended our hours of operation to answer calls from 7 am to 7 pm and will now answer phones 7 days a week. We are committed to helping every single Texan in need.

The Texas Workforce Commission has over 1,500 staff helping support unemployment insurance services and has upgraded and expanded telephone infrastructure and website capacity.  The Texas Workforce Commission is actively hiring emergency hires and receiving volunteers from other TWC departments and external partners. Hardware upgrades have been made to TWC’s Benefits System, and TWC added two third-party call centers to help take claims. An artificial intelligence-enabled chatbot has been added to the TWC homepage to provide answers to UI questions and 24/7.

  • 100 emergency staff hired to work call centers. We are also working to hire more staff to take unemployment claims in each of its unemployment benefits call centers.
  • 450 staff transferred from other departments to help take claims.
  • Four additional call center added to the four original tele centers. Two contract centers have already been added and two more are being added this week.  
  • Adding additional volunteers from other state agencies.  
  • Artificial intelligence chat bot added to TWC website (already helped over 175,000 Texans by responding to over 456,596 questions.
  • Extending call center hours from 7 am – 7 pm
  • Call centers open 7 days a week

We understand our internet system and our phone lines are overwhelmed. The Governor declared the COVID-19 Pandemic a disaster March 13, 2020; therefore, we can backdate a claim to the prior Sunday which is March 8, 2020 if an individual was unemployed and has been trying to file but has not yet been successful. If the individual became unemployed subsequent to March 13, 2020 and has been attempting file but not yet successful then their claim will be effective the Sunday prior to the date they were separated from work.

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Most Recent Questions

Some people are about to start getting paid by their employer because the business got a PPP loan. In that case, does the worker qualify for unemployment?


If an employee returns to work full time, they would not be eligible for UI benefits and should stop requesting payment once they begin working. If an employee returns to part time work, they may be eligible to receive benefits because of reduced hours. They are required to submit wages when they request payment. The amount of wages they received would determine if they are eligible or not eligible to receive benefits.

When businesses start to reopen, if an employee doesn’t feel safe going back, and therefore remains unemployed, can they still draw unemployment benefits?

Each UI benefits case is currently evaluated on an individual basis. However, because of the COVID-19 emergency, the following are reasons benefits would be granted if the individual refused suitable work.

Reason for refusal:

  • People 65 years or older, and/or people with medical issues, like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or a weakened immune system, are at a higher risk for getting very sick from COVID 19. (Source: DSHS website)
  • Household member at high risk – People 65 years or older are at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 (source DSHS website).
  • Diagnosed with COVID - the individual has tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and is not recovered.
  • Family member with COVID - anybody in the household has tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and is not recovered and 14 days have not yet passed.
  • Quarantined – individual is currently in 14-day quarantine due to close contact exposure to COVID-19.
  • Child care – Child’s school or daycare closed and no alternatives are available.
  • Any other situation will be subject to a case by case review by the Texas Workforce Commission based on individual circumstances.

If a business chooses not to reopen even though they are allowed by the governor, does that business have to pay more for their employees’ unemployment benefits?

The law provides for chargeback protection for an employer if its workers file UI claims based on COVID-19-related circumstances.

Where does the trust fund stand as of now?

Based on the level unemployment benefit payments for the past week, TWC anticipates Title XII advances could be necessary near the end of May.  Required unemployment benefit payments will occur without interruption or delay regardless of when Title XII advances are needed. The amount which is borrowed will be dependent on the amount needed daily.  Title XII advances are interest free until December 2020.

Texas has always been able to meet the unemployment needs of unemployed Texans.  In fact, we have always been able to provide a payment to an eligible individual. 

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Information for the Public

How do I apply for benefits?

An individual may apply for benefits or check the status of their existing claim online at ui.texasworkforce.org any time 24/7 which will allow us to more quickly handle their claim needs.  If they do not have internet access, they may call 1-800-939-6631 M-F 8 am to 6 pm CST and Saturday 8 am to 5 pm CST.

What's the best time to call for unemployment information?

 
Our phone systems are overwhelmed if at all possible, please try the Internet first.  If you do not have Internet access you may call 1-800-939-6631.  We appreciate your patience

Our Unemployment Benefit System online portal is available 24 hours a day but is experiencing a high volume of visitors. We are seeing lower volume on the online portal between 10:00p.m. and 8 a.m. We encourage people to try during those hours to file their claim or check the status of their claim.

How much of one’s income is usually covered? 

You can estimate your potential benefit amount on the Texas Workforce Commission website.  The answer to this question will vary from person to person.

What are the criteria to qualify for benefits?

TWC evaluates your unemployment benefits claim based on:

  • Past Wages
    Your past wages are one of the eligibility requirements and the basis of your potential unemployment benefit amounts. We use the taxable wages, earned in Texas, your employer(s) have reported paying you during your base period to calculate your benefits. If you worked in more than one state, see If You Earned Wages in More than One State.
  • Types of Job Separation
    To be eligible for benefits based on your job separation, you must be either unemployed or working reduced hours through no fault of your own. Examples include layoff, reduction in hours or wages not related to misconduct, being fired for reasons other than misconduct, or quitting with good cause related to work.
  • Ongoing Eligibility Requirements
    In addition to the past wages and job separation eligibility requirements, there are requirements you must continue to meet to stay eligible. See Ongoing Eligibility Requirements for Receiving Unemployment Benefits.

You must meet all requirements in each of these three areas to qualify for unemployment benefits.

Note: Job search requirements have been temporarily suspended.

If you make less than $3 an hour as a server or bartender, will you get only half since unemployment doesn’t pay you your entire wage?

Employers should be reporting tips as wages to the Texas Workforce Commission which increases any potential for benefit amounts. You can estimate your potential benefit amount on the Texas Workforce Commission website.  The answer to this question will vary from person to person.

What do I do if I was previously denied benefits due to my base period?

You may reapply. Unemployment benefit eligibility is based on past wages, job separation and ongoing eligibility requirements. Prior to April 5, past wages are calculated on a base period of October 2018-September 2019. However, starting on April 5, 2020, the base period changes to January 2019-December 2019. If you were previously denied unemployment benefits due to monetary ineligibility and worked during the January 2019-December 2019 base period, TWC encourages you to visit the unemployment benefit services portal on April 5 to reapply online.

You can also find information on how to appeal a denied claim here.

Is it necessary to be searching for work?

Currently individuals receiving unemployment benefits in Texas are not required to look for work. Once the crisis ends the work search will be reinstated. At that time individuals must search for work and accept suitable work.

Is there a waiting period before which one can receive benefits?

The waiting week is the first payable week of an individual’s claim for Unemployment Benefits. Under normal circumstances, TWC cannot pay for the first week of a claim until an individual receives two times their weekly benefit amount and returns to full-time work or has exhausted their benefits. However, by waiving the waiting week, Gov. Abbott has provided the opportunity for TWC to provide immediate relief to Texans who need it. 

How long does it take to receive benefits?

On average, it takes about 21 days for a person to receive benefits from the time they apply and qualify. Some people receive benefits sooner and for some it might take a little more time.

If someone can’t apply for benefits on time because of website or call center backlogs, do they lose benefits?

We understand our internet system and our phone lines are overwhelmed. The Governor declared the COVID-19 Pandemic a disaster March 13, 2020; therefore, we can backdate a claim to the prior Sunday which is March 8, 2020 if an individual was unemployed and has been trying to file but has not yet been successful. If the individual became unemployed subsequent to March 13, 2020 and has been attempting file but not yet successful then their claim will be effective the Sunday prior to the date they were separated from work.

How do I get paid?           

You should request payment on the date provided when you established your claim. You will request payment every two weeks after that. You can:

  • Log on to Unemployment Benefits Services and select “Request a Payment”, OR
  • Call Tele-Serv, our automated system, at 800-558-8321 from 7am to 6pm daily and select Option 1.

Where can I find the Unemployment Benefits Handbook ?       

 You can view or download our online PDF version of the Unemployment Benefits HandbookPDF. It is available in English, Spanish and Vietnamese.

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How to Use the UI Website/Tele Centers

Q: How do I set up a Personal Identification Number?

Call our automated phone system, Tele-Serv, at 800-558-8321. Select Option 4. Enter your Social Security number (SSN), confirm your SSN, then enter your chosen four-digit PIN. Wait for the message “Your new PIN has been accepted.”

My PIN has expired. How do I reset it?

In response to a high number of PIN retrieval requests, TWC updated our PIN retrieval policy. PINs created prior to 2015 have been removed from the system effective March 22, 2020. Individuals needing to retrieve a PIN that was created prior to 2015 are asked to please login again online and reset their PIN. Please note, claimants who meet these requirements but have an overpayment will still need to call to retrieve their PIN.

If an individual has never filed for unemployment before, they do not need to reset a PIN or establish a PIN before filing a claim online. The PIN set up will occur during the claims filing process.

If the individual tried to file online but got a message saying their PIN and SSN is not a valid combination, they get 3 chances to enter the correct PIN. If they receive a message that they are revoked, they will be advised to call the PIN reset department (number is displayed on the page to call). At this time, that is their only option. For any other scenarios where their PIN is revoked, their only option is for the PIN to be reset.

Resetting Your PIN

If you revoke your PIN and you are eligible for self-serv reset, on the same call you may be able to reset your PIN on Tele-Serv by providing personal information from your claim, such as:

  • Date of birth
  • Texas driver license or ID number
  • Telephone number
  • Amount of your last benefit payment
  • Part of your bank/credit union account number

If you hang up from Tele-Serv, you will be unable to reset your PIN. Tele-Center staff are pulling reports of customers who have revoked their PIN and reaching out to them to verify their identify and reset their PIN.

How do I create my user ID and password?

If you need to create a User ID or Password, select "Sign Up for a User ID" on the Unemployment Benefit Services webpage.

What if I forgot my User ID?

Select "Forgot User ID." on the Unemployment Benefit Services webpage. You can retrieve your User ID with this screen only if you provided an e-mail address when you created your User ID.  If you did not provide an e-mail address when you created your User ID, call Unemployment Benefits Services Support at 800-939-6631 for assistance.

I keep trying to log in and the system tells me my Social Security Number is already in use. What causes this problem?

There are many reasons why someone may get that message:

  • They have a very old claim that they do not remember, but our system does
  • They are a victim of ID theft
  • They submitted a claim under a previous or maiden name and forgot that they did
  • Somebody keyed in the wrong SSN by accident when they applied and we have not caught the error yet

Because of confidentiality, this problem must be handled by a call center directly. Please continue to call.

If I am about to exhaust my unemployment benefits, or recently exhausted my benefits, can I get an extension and/or would I qualify for DUA?  

Under the Federal Stimulus Bill, your benefits may be extended.

If you recently exhausted benefits, no action is needed from you. We will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

Can I receive my payment by direct deposit?         

For more information see Receiving Benefit Payments by Direct Deposit.

Can I change my payment method?  

You can change your payment option online or by phone.  Log on to UBS and select Change Payment Option from the Quick Links menu. or call Tele-Serv at 800-558-8321 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and select option 5.

Will my appeal hearing occur as scheduled?          

Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Appeals hearings are proceeding as scheduled. If you have any questions or concerns about participating in the hearing related to COVID-19, please contact your hearing officer directly using the contact information on your Notice of Hearing

I'm not working due to shelter in place order. Can I get benefits?      

For eligibility information, visit our COVID-19 Resources Job Seekers page. Select "Unemployment Eligibility Scenarios for Job Seekers" in the Unemployment Benefits section.

Why isn't my employer in the system?        

If your employer is not listed, your claim can still proceed. You can manually enter the employer name or business name if you have worked for this employer for more than 30 hours. If you haven't worked than more than 30 hours for your current employer, you must list your previous employer.

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Employer Questions

What is the Shared Work program? 

The Shared Work program allows employers to reduce normal weekly work hours for employees in an affected unit by at least 10 percent but not more than 40 percent; the reduction must affect at least 10 percent of the employees in that unit.

Shared Work allows employers to supplement their employees’ wages lost because of reduced work hours with partial unemployment benefits. Under the program employers can reduce normal weekly work hours for employees in an affected unit by at least 10 percent but not more than 40 percent. Shared Work unemployment benefits are payable to employees who qualify for and participate in an approved Shared Work Plan. Workers may choose not to participate. Employees who qualify will receive both wages and Shared Work unemployment benefits.

The employer can use the Shared Work Plan only for employees whose hours have been reduced. Shared Work benefits can be paid only for wages lost because of a reduction in the employee's regular hours. Regular hours may not exceed 40 hours. An employee who normally works overtime may not receive shared work benefits for a reduction in their overtime hours.

Shared work employees must:

  • Submit their unemployment claims on Unemployment Benefits Services
  • Be eligible for regular unemployment benefits
  • Accept all work offered by the participating employer
  • Be able and available for work with the employer

What if I must close my business temporarily or permanently?

If you have to close your business either temporarily or permanently and need to lay off employees, you may be able to submit a mass claim for unemployment benefits on their behalf. The Mass Claims program streamlines the unemployment benefit claims process for employers faced with either temporary or permanent layoffs. Employers can submit basic worker information on behalf of their employees to initiate claims for unemployment benefits. You can submit a mass claim request on Employer Benefits Services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For more information, see: Mass Claims for Unemployment Benefits at www.texasworkforce.org or contact TWC’s Mass Claims Coordinator at 512-463-2999.

What if my business has slowed down?

If your business has slowed down due to the pandemic and you want to keep your employees but need to reduce employee working hours, you may be able to avoid laying off employees by submitting a shared work plan. How to Apply for a Shared Work Plan. Log on to Employer Benefits Services (EBS) to submit your Shared Work Plan online. EBS online is fast, easy, secure, and available 24/7.

If you have any questions, please email: ui.sharedwork@twc.state.tx.us. If you are unable to get online contact TWC’s Shared Work Department by phone: 512-340-4337 or 888-741-0446.

If you lay off completely then to save workers time you may file a Mass Claim for Unemployment Benefits or contact TWC’s Mass Claims Coordinator at 512-463-2999.

Employers should use TWC’s Employer Benefits Services to help manage unemployment claims and signup for electronic correspondence. If they don’t already have an account, they can register here.

What if an employer has questions about an unemployment claim that was filed?

EMPLOYERS should contact TWC online at uicentral.twc.state.tx.us. If they do not have Internet they may call the Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 or call the unique 1-800 number on the claim notice that was mailed to the employer when the claim was initially filed.

As an employer, how do I file a mass claim?           

Employers can submit basic worker information on behalf of their employees to initiate claims for unemployment benefits. You can submit a mass claim request on Employer Benefits Services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

What happens now if we fire someone for misconduct for something that has nothing to do with COVID-19?

You will receive a notice from us asking why the person was separated.  It is critical that you respond so that we can conduct an investigation to determine whether or not they are eligible. We encourage you to sign up for electronic correspondence when you receive our notice.

What do I do if I have reopened and my folks were only off for 3 weeks but now they do not want to come back to work.  They would prefer to stay home and draw UI?

You should report any job refusal.  You may send the information to twc.fraud@twc.state.tx.us or call 1-800-252-3642

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Employee Questions

What about safety at work? Can they fire me if I do not go? Where do I file a claim?

Per OSHA, employers are required to protect their workforce.

The issue does not fall under Chapter 21 of the Labor Code, because the reason provided for termination is not because of a disability, race, color, religion, national origin, age, or sex.

Thus, in this situation, I recommend referring the inquiries of this nature to Department of Labor, OSHA.

If an employee is afraid to go to work, are they protected from being fired?

Current CDC guidelines for those who are concerned about exposure or symptoms for Covid-19 are accessible online. Those guidelines from the federal government do not currently include voluntary or involuntary self-quarantining for those who have merely been exposed to a higher-than-normal risk of coronavirus. Naturally, good judgment and common sense go a long way, and employees who voluntarily self-quarantine should be treated the same way that any other employee would be treated who reports absences due to medical conditions, i.e., apply the company's normal medical absence policy.

Employees who are told to stay home for such reasons would be able to use available paid medical leave under whatever paid leave policy the company has.

While on paid medical leave, they would not be considered "unemployed" under TWC laws and would not be able to claim unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.

If they are on unpaid leave, they could be considered unemployed if they are out long enough to satisfy the test for either partial or total unemployment (for those definitions, see our book Especially for Texas Employers online)

Any claimant who is able to file a claim for UI benefits must meet the eligibility requirements in order to actually draw benefits. Most notably, the claimant must be medically able to work and be available and actively searching for full-time work.

An employer may be eligible for protection from chargebacks from UI benefits if the evidence shows that the work separation was for medical reasons. However, if the reason for the work separation was merely a cautionary period of time off to minimize potential exposure of others to someone who might be infected, but might not be, chargeback protection would most likely not be extended to the employer.

My employer will not let me come to work during the COVID-19 pandemic and I am losing wages.  Where do I file a claim?

In this situation, the EEOC may consider the person "regarded as disabled."  The Texas Labor Code, Chapter 21 Sec 21.002 (12) defines “Regarded as Disabled” as

"Regarded as having such an impairment" means subjected to an action prohibited under Subchapter B or C because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment, other than an impairment that is minor and is expected to last or actually lasts less than six months, regardless of whether the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity. The employer is perceiving the person to have a physical impairment.  The amount of time is uncertain, thus it is questionable if COVID-19 meets the definition because it is expected to last less than 6 months.

Would workers have the right to unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) if they refused to go to work?

The Wage and Hour Division with the U.S Department of Labor is responsible for administering and enforcing the FMLA for most employees. Most federal and certain congressional employees are also covered by the law but are subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management or Congress. If you believe that your rights under the FMLA have been violated, you may file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division or file a private lawsuit against your employer in court. For additional information, visit our Wage and Hour Division Website or call 1-866-4-USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).

Has the COVID-19 emergency had any effect on how much you can make over the weekly benefit amount before your benefit payment is reduced?

This question refers to the regular amount of 25% over the weekly benefit amount before the weekly benefit is reduced to the maximum of 125% received.

No changes have been made to this provision at this time. We will continue to monitor new legislation from Congress.  As changes impact UI, we will continue to provide updates.

Do substitute teachers qualify for unemployment?            

If you are a substitute teacher and are not receiving payment from your employer, you may be eligible for benefits.  You can apply for benefits either online at any time using Unemployment Benefits Services or by calling TWC’s Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time on Saturday.

For people coming back from FMLA/Maternity leave and have no jobs to return to – what are the recommendations for them?

Individuals who have been released by their medical professionals to return to work, but whose employer has temporarily closed or reduced their staff due to COVID-19 may file for unemployment compensation.

Can individuals who are about to exhaust their unemployment benefits, or who have recently exhausted their benefits get an extension and/or would they qualify for DUA?

TWC is working with the Department of Labor to implement the new stimulus act while continuing to work tirelessly to process unemployment insurance claims caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

If a claimant recently exhausted benefits, no action is needed from them. We will determine if they qualify for additional benefits under the stimulus act and notify them by mail or electronic correspondence of their eligibility.

If an individual applied for unemployment benefits but lacked the necessary wages to qualify, no action is needed from them. We will determine if they qualify under the new stimulus act and notify them by mail or electronic correspondence of their eligibility.

Claimants who are in a hardship situation should contact 2-1-1 for additional resources such as help with utilities, rent, food, transportation, childcare, child support, finding work, education or training, and other benefits.

Do GIG economy workers qualify for benefits based on COVID-19?

Individuals who are self-employed, are contract workers, or previously worked in a position that did not report wages, may qualify for unemployment under the new stimulus bill.

If an individual applied for unemployment benefits but lacked the necessary wages to qualify, no action is needed from them. We will determine if they qualify under the new stimulus act and notify them by mail or electronic correspondence of their eligibility. Most likely by the end of April.

If an individual under this scenario has not applied yet, they should apply using the TWC website Apply for Benefits page at or by calling the UI Tele-Center at 1-800-939-6631. 

Does paid time off (PTO) have to be used before being considered jobless/unemployed for purposes of filing for unemployment compensation?

No, claimants do not have to use paid time off before filing for UI.  They can file as soon as they have been laid off or otherwise unable to work due to COVID-19. However, if they are being paid their normal salary, they would not be considered unemployed.

My work is going to pay me. How do I stop UI?

Claimants should stop requesting payment and can notify a customer service representative of pay already received for weeks already filed by calling 800-939-6631.

Can you get intermittent unemployment benefits? Can you pause your payouts for a period of time and pick them back up again?

YES, your claim is good for a complete year

How do I get help with reporting fraud?      

A: TWC established a Fraud and Program Abuse Hotline 800-252-3642 for individuals who wish to report suspected fraud, waste, or program abuse 

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CARES ACT

How does the national stimulus package work for Texans?

People that qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation are eligible to receive $600 per week in addition to the persons regular unemployment compensation for people who are eligible for REGULAR state UI Benefits. 

TWC is taking action to implement the new law and working with the Department of Labor to implement the act while continuing to work tirelessly to process unemployment insurance claims caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

If you are already signed up and qualified for Texas unemployment benefits, no action is needed from you. We will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

Self-employed/independent contractors

If you are self-employed, a contract worker or previously worked in a position that did not report wages, you may qualify for unemployment and can apply!

If you already applied TWC will determine if you qualify under the new stimulus bill and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility. 

If you have not filed, please go online to ui.texasworkforce.org and file or if unable to file online then call us at 1-800-939-6631 to start the process.

Typically to receive unemployment benefits you must have enough past wages in the first 4 of the last 5 completed calendar quarters; have a qualifying job separation and meet ongoing requirements.  These are not typical times and various temporary law changes can broaden the number of people who would typically qualify for benefits; therefore, if an individual has been working fulltime regardless of whether the work was covered employment; self-employment; contract labor or commission based they should file a claim at ui.texasworkforce.org.  If they already have a claim in our system, then we will reach out to them at the last address of record.

Are UI benefits taxable?

Unemployment benefits are taxable. Individuals can sign up for withholding and the Texas Workforce Commission will deduct 10% for income tax.

What is Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

This program provides up to 13 weeks of benefits and is available for weeks of unemployment beginning after the date on which the state enters into an agreement with the Department and ending with weeks of unemployment ending on or before December 31, 2020.

The weekly benefit amount of PEUC is equal to the regular compensation payable to such individual under state law, plus an additional $600 under the Emergency Increase. 

Who qualifies for PEUC (unemployed, part time, furloughs) and what measures are used to qualify?

This program covers individuals who: have exhausted all rights to regular UC under state or federal law; have no rights to regular UC under any other state or federal law; are not receiving compensation under the UC laws of Canada; and are able to work, available for work, and actively seeking work. However, states shall offer flexibility in meeting the “actively seeking work” requirement if individuals are unable to search for work because of COVID-19, including because of illness, quarantine, or movement restriction.

What is Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

This program provides up to 39 weeks of benefits and is available starting with weeks of unemployment beginning on or after January 27, 2020 and ending on or before December 31, 2020. This program covers individuals who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, or whom otherwise would not qualify for regular UC or EB under state or federal law or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) under section 2107. Coverage also includes individuals who have exhausted all rights to regular UC or EB under state or federal law, or PEUC. The maximum amount of Texas unemployment insurance is 26 weeks. For people that qualify, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance can extend benefits to a maximum of 39 weeks through December 31, 2020.

Who qualifies for PUA (unemployed, part time, furloughs) and what measures are used to qualify?

This program covers individuals who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, or whom otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment compensation (UC) or extended benefits (EB) under state or federal law or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) under section 2107. Coverage also includes individuals who have exhausted all rights to regular UC or EB under state or federal law, or PEUC.

How long will it approximately take the TWC to roll out an application process for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance from the time that the act is signed?

TWC is taking action to implement the new law and working with the Department of Labor to implement the act while continuing to work tirelessly to process unemployment insurance claims caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

If you are already signed up and qualified for Texas unemployment benefits, no action is needed from you. We will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

How do you apply for the $600 Stimulus Funds?

An individual may apply for benefits or check the status of their existing claim online at ui.texasworkforce.org any time 24/7 which will allow us to more quickly handle their claim needs.  If they do not have internet access, they may call 1-800-939-6631 M-F 8 am to 6 pm CST and Saturday 8 am to 5 pm CST.

If you are already signed up and qualified for Texas unemployment benefits, no action is needed from you. We will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

If you applied for unemployment benefits but lacked the necessary wages to qualify, no action is needed. We will determine if you qualify under the new stimulus bill and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility. We are upgrading our system to adapt to the new legislation. If you attempt to access the system or call prior to receiving notification, we will not be able to assist you.

How do you extend your benefits?

If you recently exhausted benefits, no action is needed from you. We will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

We are upgrading our system to adapt to the new legislation. If you attempt to access the system or call prior to receiving notification, we will not be able to assist you. 

If you exhausted your benefits on or after 7/1/19, you may qualify for a 13 week extension.

TWC is currently reviewing all claims data in our system and will notify you via mail or electronic correspondence if you qualify for the 13 week extension.

How do you apply for these new benefits?

  • If you applied for unemployment benefits but lacked the necessary wages to qualify, no action is needed. We will determine if you qualify under the new stimulus bill and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

  • We are upgrading our system to adapt to the new legislation. If you attempt to access the system or call prior to receiving notification, we will not be able to assist you.
  • If you have not filed, please go online to ui.texasworkforce.org and file or if unable to file online then call us at 1-800-939-6631 to start the process.

What sort of documents does a person need to show their unemployment was because of the pandemic? 

The new programs do not require any documents regarding the pandemic.

You want employers to file one mass claim on behalf of workers to reduce the traffic.  Noting no chargeback.  How would that work for the person receiving benefits? 

The employer provides all the information regarding the worker to TWC, which allows the claims to set up quickly.  The worker does not have to call and file the claim, they request benefits every 2 weeks once the claim is established. For more information regarding mass claims go to our mass claims page.

How can the employee verify the employer filed their claim and put the correct information in to the system? 

TWC will mail information to the employee at the address given to TWC by the employer.  

What is the difference in PUA and PEUC?  Do different people qualify for one and not the other?  Can folks get both benefits? 

PEUC can extend Texas UI benefits an additional 13 weeks through 12/31/20.  PUA covers individuals who are self-employed, seeking part-time employment, or whom otherwise would not qualify for regular UC or EB under state or federal law or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) under section 2107. Coverage also includes individuals who have exhausted all rights to regular UC or EB under state or federal law, or PEUC.

When will people begin receiving PUA and PUEC benefits? 

TWC is taking action to implement the new law and working with the Department of Labor to implement the act while continuing to work tirelessly to process unemployment insurance claims caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

If you are already signed up and qualified for Texas unemployment benefits, no action is needed from you. We will determine if you qualify and notify you by mail or electronic correspondence of your eligibility.

What if I am a part-time worker who lost my job because of a coronavirus reason? Am I still eligible for UI benefits?

Yes. Part-time workers are eligible for partial benefits, which are calculated by taking into consideration your recent wages. You will also be eligible for the additional $600 weekly benefit, although the extra $600 benefit currently expires at the end of July 2020. Claimants under this scenario should be prepared to provide wage verification documentation to assist us with expediting UI benefit eligibility. Applicants will need to provide self-certification that they are (1) partially or fully unemployed, or (2) unable and unavailable to work because of COVID-19.

What if I have COVID-19 or need to care for a family member who has COVID-19? Am I eligible for UI benefits?

If you have received a diagnosis, are experiencing symptoms or are seeking a diagnosis — and you are unemployed, partly unemployed or cannot work as a result — you are eligible to receive UI benefits. If you need to care for a member of your family or household who has received a diagnosis, you are still eligible to receive UI benefits

What if my child’s school or daycare shut down? Am I eligible for UI benefits?

If you rely on a school, daycare, or another facility, elderly parent, or another household member to care for a child so that you can work — and that facility has been shut down because of coronavirus — you are eligible to receive UI benefits.

What if I have been advised by a health care provider to quarantine myself because gof exposure to coronavirus? Am I eligible for UI benefits?

If you must self-quarantine due to exposure or possible exposure to the coronavirus, the CARES Act allows you to receive UI benefits that traditionally you would not receive.

I was about to start a new job and now cannot get there because of an outbreak. Am I eligible for UI benefits?

Under the CARES Act, you are now eligible for UI benefits. You are also eligible if you were immediately laid off from a new job and do not have a sufficient work history to qualify for benefits under traditional circumstances. Claimants under these scenarios should be prepared to provide wage verification documentation to assist us with expediting UI benefit eligibility.

Applicants will need to provide self-certification that they are (1) partially or fully unemployed, or (2) unable and unavailable to work because of COVID-19.

Is anyone explicitly excluded from receiving assistance under the CARES Act?

Workers who are able to perform their jobs through paid telework, and those receiving paid sick leave or paid family leave are not eligible.

I have a full-time job which continue to pay me but I lost my part-time gig, contract or self-employed work. Do I qualify?
You may not qualify. Since you are receiving your full -time salary, you are technically employed and thus may make too much to qualify for these programs.

Flow Chart of Cares Act Benefits

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Child Care

Questions from the public:

What efforts are underway to help parents with Child Care needs?

TWC is part of a task force set up by the governor’s office to address child care needs in light of the current crisis.

  • For February 2020, there were 17,279 child care operations in Texas, including listed family homes.
  • As of today there are 11,354 operations open.
  • That’s a 34.3% decrease, and 25.5% have indicated closure due to COVID-19.

This tool is intended to serve working parents employed at essential businesses. 

How do we know child care is safe during this pandemic?

Regulated child care providers (licensed centers, licensed homes, and registered homes) must continue to follow Child Care Licensing Minimum Standards.

Additionally, regulated child care providers must follow new safety guidelines from Child Care Licensing, which can be found at this webpage, as well as guidance from CDC and DSHS.

The Texas Workforce Commission also issued best practices to reduce the spread of COVID-19, which can be found at this webpage.

Many city and county governments are issuing new health and safety guidance each day. Please check with your local authorities to understand what new policies they have enacted that might relate to child care operations.

You should always ask your facility what health and safety precautions they follow and whether they are meeting Child Care Licensing Minimum Standards.

Questions from Child Care Providers

How can I serve essential workers through the child care subsidy program?

Complete this form to indicate the number of seats you have available, and update the Frontline Child Care Availability Portal each week. Without a weekly update from your program, the website will automatically assume you have no availability in your program.

Contact your Local Board to let them know you can provide care for essential workers and to set up an agreement to accept child care subsidies.

What reimbursement amount would I receive for serving essential workers through the subsidy program?

Each Board sets rates based on the operation types (licensed center, etc.), the child’s age, and the operations TRS status.

Below are some examples of rates that are currently in effect.  If you don’t see your operation type’s specific rate, contact your Local Board.

How can I update the number of child care seats I have available in the Frontline Child Care Availability Portal?

After you complete the initial form, you will be send weekly reminders via email and/or text message with instructions to update your information using a simple online form.

How often should I update the number of child care spots I have available in the Frontline Child Care Availability Portal?

You must update the Portal at least once a week. You will be able to update it as frequently as you like, and we hope you will update it as often as possible so that families have accurate information.  Each Saturday at 8:00am, the system will be wiped clean and show no availability for all providers. Providers will have the entire weekend to provide the most updated information for the Portal. This is to ensure there is no “stale” information in the system.

How can I change my hours of operation, ages served, or other information that is auto-populated in the Frontline Child Care Availability Portal?

Child Care Licensing has supplied the Frontline Child Care Availability Portal with this information. At any time, you may make the following changes in your online Child Care Licensing Account or by contacting your licensing inspector as soon as possible:

  • Adding services like night time care
  • Changing your hours or the days you are operating
  • Changing the ages served
  • Moving to a temporary location

Please give it 24 hours to update on the Frontline Child Care Availability Portal. If you do not know who your current licensing inspector is, you can send an email to MSC@hhsc.state.tx.us

Where can I find additional guidance for health and safety during this pandemic?

  • Licensed child care providers must follow new safety guidelines from Child Care Licensing, which can be found at this webpage.
  • TWC has issued best practices to reduce the spread of COVID-19, which can be found at this webpagePDF.
  • The Texas Department of State Health Services houses a variety of COVID-19 resources on this webpage.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also issued guidance for child care programs, which can be found here.

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Media-specific questions

How Many Unemployment Claims has Texas Seen since the COVID-19 crisis began?

Exact, verified numbers for March 2020 will not be released until April 17, but the weekly national numbers including the weekly numbers for Texas can be found at the U.S. Department of Labor’s website herePDF. Texas weekly unemployment claims numbers can be found here; please keep in mind that these numbers are estimates based on internal data and does not reflect official U.S. Department of Labor data.

Data related to unemployment numbers including the number of unemployment insurance claims will be provided after official release to the Department of Labor. This is to ensure the security of the data and to prevent anyone from benefiting from early access to the data, which can influence stock and bond markets. 

Texas unemployment data for February 2020 can be found on TexasLMI.com and a labor market report on the February data for Texas can be found here.

Unemployment data can be accessed through the Texas Workforce Commission’s labor market report. To sign up for Texas Workforce Commission notification updates on the labor market reports and for a schedule of release dates, please use the link below.

You can find more Texas labor market information here including local area unemployment statistics, quarterly census of employment and wages and projections under the popular downloads tab. You can also review metropolitan statistical area profiles, workforce development area profiles and more.

How is TWC addressing with website and phone backlogs?

The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused unprecedented changes to the lives of individuals all across Texas and across the globe.

In 2019, the Texas Workforce commission helped over 700,000 Texans file unemployment claims. Since March 14, the Texas Workforce Commission has helped more Texans file for unemployment benefits than all of 2019.

First and foremost, to those who have been laid off, are unsure about your employment situation or are worried for your business: we see you, we hear you and we are working around the clock to provide the resources and help that you need.

Prior to COVID-19, the average number of calls into the Texas Workforce Commission would be around 13,000 and the record number of calls in a day was 60,000. Last week, over 1.7 million calls were made to our 800 numbers in a 24-hour period. That number does not reflect the number of people applying for unemployment benefits, but the number of times people are calling.

We are expanding both our technological and staff capabilities to meet our current needs. We have extended our hours of operation and are open Saturdays. We are hiring new staff. We are committed to helping every single Texan in need. 

What specific upgrades and improvements has TWC made?

The Texas Workforce Commission has over 1,000 staff helping support unemployment insurance services and has upgraded and expanded telephone infrastructure and website capacity.  The Texas Workforce Commission is actively hiring emergency hires and receiving volunteers from other TWC departments and external partners. Hardware upgrades have been made to TWC’s Benefits System, and TWC is working to add two third-party call centers to help take claims. Artificial intelligence-enabled chatbot has been added to the TWC homepage to provide answers to UI questions and 24/7.

  • 100 emergency staff hired to work call centers. We are also working to hire more staff to take unemployment claims in each of its unemployment benefits call centers. 
  • 200 staff transferred from other departments to help take claims.
  • 250 additional staff being transferred over this week.
  • 2 additional call centers being added this week to help take claims.
  • 3rd additional call center being added soon.
  • Adding additional volunteers from other state agencies.   
  • Artificial intelligence chat bot added to TWC website (already helped 43,817 folks and has answered 98,065 messages)

What is the Chat Bot and how does it work?

Larry the Chat Bot Bot has already helped 55,561 folks and has answered 117,515 messages.
The artificial intelligence-enabled chatbot is available on the TWC homepage 24/7. Larry was designed to help you get answers to most common questions and help alleviate pressure on TWC UI staff and Website during Covid-19.

Have an unemployment insurance question? Ask Larry

What is staggered calling and how will it help?

Effective immediately, TWC asks that Texans use their area code to find their proposed call and access times listed below. See below chart for recommended call and access times:

Recommended Call and Access Times

Area Code of Applicant  Suggested Call Time

  • Area Codes Beginning with 9 - Mon-Wed-Fri 8:00 a.m.-Noon
  • Area Codes Beginning with 3, 4, 5,6 - Mon-Wed-Fri 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  • Area codes Beginning with 7, 8   - Tues -Thurs-Sat 8:00 a.m. - Noon
  • Area codes Beginning with 2 - Tues-Thurs-Sat 1:00 p.m. -5:00 p.m.

Texans will not be penalized for a delay due to call or user volume. Claims for individuals affected by COVID-19 are eligible to be backdated. Staggering claims will provide help to reduce frustrations for many Texans and provide better access to needed services.

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Website & Phone Notes

What is the current maximum number of internet users who can be on the agency’s website at one time?

20,000 

What was that number before the DIR upgrades?

1,000

How much has TWC spent on upgrades to its phone and website systems since the beginning of COVID-19?

The Texas Workforce Commission has spent $330,000 (55k in telephone upgrades & 275K in web/IT/server) related to purchases, upgrades and system expenses. We have also reached out to Data Center Services (DCS) leadership to see if they can estimate what the costs are on their side that will be billed back to the Texas Workforce Commission in our monthly DSC bills.

Are any future upgrades planned?

The Texas Workforce Commission has another $250,000 in the works for other upgrades to support our customers through deployment of hosted Interactive Voice Response (IVR) additions, and additional telephone lines for our telephone systems.

IT will continue to monitor the stability of our systems and will work with our vendor partners on future upgrades as needed.

What are the agency's vendors doing to help with call center/website volume?

The Texas Workforce Commission has agreements with two vendors to ramp up virtual call centers that will double the Texas Workforce Commission’s capacity for handling calls.

IT continues to work with the Department of Information Services (DIR)/DCS to improve the infrastructure that supports the TWC Web site and UI Systems.  We have added servers, CPU power, memory and taken other actions to improve capacity.  We will continue to monitor system performance to see what other improvements can be made. 

We have also partnered with a consortium of private partners to deploy a chat bot to help citizens get information about filing an unemployment insurance (UI) claim through a new communication channel.

How many people does TWC have working during these non-peak hours?

All hours are peak times.

IT has about 30 staff working from 10:00p.m. and 8 a.m. monitoring systems and taking appropriate actions as needed.

Given the volume of inquiries, has TWC considered having employees answering phones outside of business hours? Maybe even 24 hours?

Yes, we our evaluating every possible avenue to assist customers

What are the agency's vendors doing to help with call center/website volume?

The Vendors are opening additional Call Centers; expanding its’ bandwidth/Internet capacity for concurrent users and has added an additional 400 phone lines and are providing these upgrades in a tenth of the time that it would normally take.

IT continues to work with the Department of Information Services (DIR)/DCS to improve the infrastructure that supports the TWC Web site and UI Systems.  We have added servers, CPU power, memory and taken other actions to improve capacity.  We will continue to monitor system performance to see what other improvements can be made. 

We have also partnered with a consortium of private partners to deploy a chat bot to help citizens get information about filing an unemployment insurance (UI) claim through a new communication channel.

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