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Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Overview

At the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), the health and well-being of our employers, employees and communities is our top priority. We understand the concern and uncertainty you may be experiencing surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and are committed to being responsive to the needs of our customers as the situation evolves.

Note: All information regarding COVID-19 is subject to change at any time due to the changing nature of the pandemic. Please revisit this page regularly for updates.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) established The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. This program provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits to individuals impacted by COVID-19 and who are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits or other benefits. PUA is available through the benefit week ending December 26, 2020. For information on other unemployment benefits programs established by the CARES Act, see Types of Regular and Pandemic Unemployment Benefits Claims.

The maximum number of benefit weeks under Texas’s regular unemployment insurance program is 26 weeks. For people who qualify, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance can extend benefits to a maximum of 39 weeks. The 39 weeks includes any week of unemployment insurance (UI) or State Extended Benefits (EB) a claimant has already received.

In general, PUA provisions follow Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) regulations and procedures. The many similarities allowed TWC to use existing programming to implement PUA, which enabled a smoother and quicker implementation. As a result, some PUA paperwork may refer to the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program.

For information on other COVID -19 programs and resources, see:

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Who is Eligible

PUA expands UI eligibility to individuals who might not qualify for, or who have exhausted their:

  • Regular UI benefits
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
  • State Extended Benefits

Individuals potentially eligible for PUA, who might not qualify for other unemployment programs include:

  • Self-employed workers — individuals who are self-employed, contract workers or who previously worked in a position that did not report wages.
  • Individuals seeking part-time employment.
  • Recently employed individuals without enough work history over the last 18 months to qualify for regular UI benefits. This includes individuals with job offers for a specific start date.
  • Gig economy workers.
  • Member of the clergy and individuals working for religious institutions.

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Eligibility Criteria

To receive PUA benefits, you must certify that you are able and available for work and are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work through no fault of your own because:

  • You have been diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19) or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • A member of your household has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You are providing care for a family member or a member of your household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • You are unable to reach your place of employment because of a quarantine imposed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • You are unable to reach your place of employment because you have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
  • You were scheduled to commence employment and do not have a job or are unable to reach the job as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • You have become the breadwinner or major support for your household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • You have to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
    • A qualified medical professional diagnosed you with COVID-19. Although you no longer have it, the illness caused health complications that make you unable to perform your essential job functions, with or without reasonable accommodation.
  • Your place of employment is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • You work as an independent contractor with reportable income, but COVID-19 has severely limited your ability to continue performing your customary work activities, and thereby forced you to suspend those activities.
  • A child or other person in your household for which you have primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility that is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and such school or facility care is required for you to work. For more information, see PUA Eligibility for Caregivers Impacted by Schools Closing or Reopening.

You are NOT eligible if you:

  • Are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits, including benefits from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). However, if you are being paid for less than your customary work week you may be eligible for reduced PUA. Any paid leave you receive must meet Disaster Unemployment Assistance’s income restrictions.
  • Can telework with pay. However, if you are working fewer hours than you did before the pandemic you may be eligible for reduced PUA if you meet DUA’s income restrictions.
  • Are an essential worker and continue to work. Quitting work without good cause in an attempt to get PUA benefits is fraud.
  • You and your employment are no longer affected by COVID-19.

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Eligibility for Caregivers Impacted by Schools Closing or Reopening

Under TWC’s Guidance to Unemployment Claimants and the CARES Act, you may have good cause to refuse suitable work and you may be eligible for PUA if you are the primary caregiver for a child who is unable to attend a school or daycare that has been closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and you have no reasonable alternative.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued additional guidance regarding PUA eligibility for caregivers who are affected by school systems reopening. See Unemployment Insurance Program Letter 16-20, Change 3.

This guidance includes three scenarios for parents and caregivers who are affected by school systems reopening.

Scenario #1: If the school system only provides online instruction, it is considered closed under the CARES Act. You may be eligible for PUA if you must stay home and take care of your child. However, if you can telework from home with pay, you may be ineligible for PUA unless you are primarily responsible for your child’s schooling.

Scenario #2: If the school system provides a hybrid learning environment where students attend school in person some days of the week and attend online classes at home the other days of the week, it is considered closed under the CARES Act.  You may be eligible for PUA if you must stay home and take care of your child. However, if you can telework from home with pay, you may be ineligible for PUA unless you are primarily responsible for your child’s schooling.

Scenario #3: If the school system gives students the option to attend school in person or attend online classes at home, it is considered open under the CARES Act. If you choose to have your child attend online classes at home, you are ineligible for PUA unless you meet another COVID-19-related eligibility criterion.

If you must stay home because you are the primary caregiver for your child, you may be eligible for paid leave benefits under Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). See the DOL’s Frequently Asked Questions for more information regarding the additional leave provided under the FFCRA. If you are receiving paid leave, you are ineligible for PUA.

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Working While Receiving PUA

If you are working full-time, but lost your part-time gig, contract, or self-employed work, you will not be eligible to receive PUA benefits. Because you are working full-time, you are considered fully employed and therefore are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

You may be eligible for benefits if you are working part-time. You must report all work and earnings each week that you worked when requesting unemployment benefit payment. You must also report any sick leave or vacation pay received or payments received from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). For more information, see our tutorial on How to calculate and report earnings.

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How to Apply

Apply for regular benefits in one of two ways:

If you are eligible for regular benefits, we must pay those benefits before paying Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).

For help in preparing to apply for benefits, review our tutorials on our UBS web page. There, we have tutorials to assist you, including:

To be eligible for PUA, you must have lost your job because of COVID-19 and indicate that on your benefits application. You must also certify that you meet one of the eligibility criteria listed above.

If you are a non-traditional worker (i.e., self-employed, independent contractor, gig economy worker, or worker seeking self-employment), and you apply for benefits online using UBS, select “reduced hours” as the reason for your job separation. If your reduced hours are a result of COVID-19, you should also select “COVID-19” under the disaster impact section. The system will then display questions you will need to answer to complete your claim.

After you submit your online application, the system will review your claim to see if you are eligible for regular UI. If you are not eligible for regular UI, you will receive a denial for regular unemployment benefits only. Subsequently, TWC will automatically enroll you into PUA if you are eligible. The initial denial for UI will not affect your PUA eligibility.

After you apply, you must:

  • Complete your work search registration at WorkinTexas.com or your local Workforce Solutions office within three days of applying for benefits.
  • You do not have to register on WorkinTexas.com if you are self-employed and are taking steps to reopen your business. If you do not plan to reopen your business, you must complete a work search registration and seek work.
  • Actively search for full-time employment unless TWC informs you that you are exempt from the work search requirement.
  • Request payment on your first filing date and every two weeks after that on your designated filing day.
  • Make sure TWC has your current mailing address. If you cannot receive mail at your home address, either set up a general delivery address with the U.S. Postal Service or arrange to receive mail at a relative’s or friend’s home. If using someone else’s address, include an “in care of” line with their name in the address.

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Certification Procedures

To be eligible for PUA, on your benefits application you must indicate that you lost your job because of COVID-19. You also must certify that you meet one of the eligibility criteria listed above.

Once approved for benefits, you must continue to certify when you request payment for every week in the biweekly request period. On each payment request, you must certify that your job is still affected by COVID-19 and that you continue to meet one of the eligibility criteria.

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Proof of Income Requirement for Non-traditional Workers

If you are self-employed, an independent contractor (1099) or gig worker, and you worked for the entire year of 2019, you do NOT need to provide TWC with your complete 2019 IRS tax return including Schedule C, F or SE unless your net profit for 2019 exceeded $20,800. That is the minimum amount needed to increase your PUA weekly benefit amount (WBA).

You will continue to receive the $207 minimum PUA WBA if your net profit for 2019 was less than $20,800. Providing your income tax return is optional and will not affect your weekly benefit amount if your net profit was less.

If you worked as a 1099 independent contractor, do NOT send TWC your 1099 form. Your 1099 form will have no effect on your PUA WBA.

If your net profit was more than $20,800 and you submit your IRS forms and schedules, TWC will recalculate your PUA WBA and notify you of the change. If your PUA WBA increases, TWC will pay the difference retroactively to the date your employment was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

If your net profit for tax year 2019 was $20,800 or more, submit your complete 2019 IRS federal income tax return including Form 1040 and all schedules, such as C, F or SE to TWC by using our online UI Submission Upload portal (English) or UI Submission Upload portal (Spanish).

If you cannot use the online portal you can submit the proof by fax or mail. Due to the heavy volume of mail, processing the proof received by fax or mail will be delayed.

  • Fax: 1-512-936-3250
  • Mail: Texas Workforce Commission
    P.O. Box 149137
    Austin, TX  78714-9137

Note: Applicants who submit their tax information may not receive an immediate response. Please do not resubmit unless explicitly asked.

Go to Self-Employed Texans and the CARES Act for more information about unemployment benefits for non-traditional workers (i.e. self-employed workers, independent contractors, gig economy workers, or workers seeking self-employment).

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Incorrect or Missing Past Wages

The past wages used to establish your PUA claim may use income not normally covered by regular unemployment, such as contract labor or self-employment earnings.

We will send you an information packet after you apply. If you are missing wages on your “Statement of Wages and Potential Benefit Amounts,” or if you disagree with the potential benefit amount, you may request a review by sending us all of the following documents:

  • A letter requesting redetermination of your benefit amounts or the Proof of Employment Cover Sheet from your information packet, and
  • Proof of wages/income for the most recently completed tax year:
    • If you are an employee, send pay stubs, earning statements, IRS Form W-2 or IRS federal income tax Form 1040.
    • If you are a contract laborer, send your complete IRS federal income tax Form 1040 and all schedules such as C, F or SE.
    • If you are self-employed, send your complete IRS federal income tax Form 1040 and all schedules such as C, F or SE.

Submit your documents using our online UI Submission Upload portal (English) or UI Submission Upload portal (Spanish).

If you cannot use the online portal you can submit the proof by fax or mail. Due to the heavy volume of mail, processing the proof received by fax or mail will be delayed.

  • Fax: 1-512-936-3250
  • Mail: Texas Workforce Commission
    P.O. Box 149137
    Austin, TX  78714-9137

Note: Applicants who submit their tax information may not receive an immediate response. Please do not resubmit unless explicitly asked.

Submit your proof promptly. If we add wages to your claim, we will mail you a new Statement of Wages and Potential Benefit Amounts.

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Weekly Benefit Amount

Calculating Your Weekly Benefit Amount

We calculate your PUA weekly benefit amount (WBA) based on past wages earned during the base period, which is the most recently completed calendar year, January 1 through December 31. This is a different base period than regular unemployment claims.

To determine your PUA weekly benefit amount, we use the base-period quarter with the highest wages, divide by 25 and round to the nearest dollar. Your WBA cannot exceed the maximum amount set by state law. You must have wages in at least two base-period quarters and wages totaling at least 37 times your WBA in order to qualify for more than the minimum WBA.

This calculation also applies to self-employed individuals.

Minimum Weekly Benefit Amount

The minimum weekly benefit amount for DUA and PUA is 50 percent of the state average WBA. For example, if the state average WBA is $315, then the minimum PUA weekly benefit amount would be $157. We will use the minimum weekly benefit amount if you do not have any base-period wages or if you do not have enough wages to establish a benefit amount using the calculation above.

Benefit Amount Reductions

TWC may reduce your PUA payments if you receive any of the following:

  • Benefits or insurance for loss of wages due to illness or disability
  • Supplemental unemployment benefits paid pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement
  • Private income protection insurance
  • Workers’ Compensation or survivors’ benefits if you become the major support of the family as a result of the death of the head of the household because of the disaster
  • Retirement pension or annuity
  • Earnings from employment or self-employment
  • Subsidy or price support payments, crop insurance payments and farm disaster relief (non-DUA) payments
  • A court order to pay child support
  • Sick leave or vacation leave, or disaster or COVID-19 pay from your employer
  • Payments received from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

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Payment Request

Request benefit payment every two weeks on your designated filing day either online or by phone. Do not wait for TWC to determine your eligibility:

You need to make your payment request on your designated filing day, which is listed on your filing instructions. Assigned filing days are Sunday through Wednesday. If you miss your designated filing day in any given week, you can submit your payment request on our open filing days, which are Thursday through Saturday.

For Workers, Employees, or Contract Laborers

You must report the total amount of wages you earned each week before deductions such as taxes. Report wages from all work (whether full-time, part-time, temporary, or contract work) in the week you performed the work, NOT when the earnings were paid. You must report any sick leave, vacation or other paid leave including payments received from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). For example, if you worked during Week #1 but your employer paid you in Week #2, you must report the wages in Week #1, the week when you earned the wages.

You must actively search for full-time employment (unless exempt). If you are required to search for work, TWC will mail you a Work Search Notification letter listing the required minimum number of work search activities you must make each week and the Guidelines for a Productive Work Search. You must keep track of the number of work search activities you do each week.

For Self-Employed Individuals

You must report earnings and commissions before deductions such as operating expenses for each week. Report your gross income in the week you receive the income, even if you performed the work in a prior week. For example, if you performed services in Week #1 but did not receive payment until Week #2, you must report the gross income in Week #2, the week when you were paid.

You must actively take steps each week to return to normal business activities. You must tell us how many hours per week you spend rebuilding your business. NOTE: If you take another job (whether full-time, part-time, temporary, or contract work), report your wages in the week you performed the work, NOT when the earnings were paid. For example, if you worked during Week #1 but your employer paid you in Week #2, you must report the wages in Week #1, the week when you earned the wages. If you do not plan to reopen your business, you must actively search for full-time employment and record your work search activities to remain eligible for benefits.

For more information, see:

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Ongoing Requirements

To continue to be eligible for PUA benefits, you must certify for each benefit week that you are able and available for work and are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work through no fault of your own as a direct result of COVID-19 and meet all of the following eligibility requirements:

  • Meet one or more of the PUA eligibility criteria listed above.
  • Meet all work search requirements, unless we exempt you from work search
  • Request payment every two weeks on your designated filing day
  • Participate in reemployment activities as required
  • Respond to requests from TWC or a Workforce Solutions office as instructed

You must then certify that your responses are true and complete.

For more information, see Ongoing Eligibility Requirements for Receiving Unemployment Benefits

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Appeals Process & Deadlines

If you disagree with a decision on your PUA claim, you must appeal in writing within 14 calendar days from the date we mail you the Determination Notice. The date mailed is located on the top of the Determination Notice form, and the last day you can file an appeal is at the bottom of the form. If the fourteenth day falls on a federal or state holiday, you have until the next business day to file your appeal.

You can submit your written appeal online, in person at your nearest Workforce Solutions office, or by mailing or faxing your appeal letter to the Appeals Department. The mailing address and fax number are shown on your Determination Notice and listed below. You cannot submit an appeal by email or over the telephone. If you choose to fax the information, keep the paperwork that indicates successful transmission of your appeal.

Your letter or appeal form should include:

  • Your name
  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your current address
  • The date TWC mailed you the Determination Notice
  • A copy of the Determination Notice, if possible
  • Any dates on which you will not be able to participate in a hearing

Please keep a copy of your appeal for your records.

Mail, fax, hand-deliver, or submit your appeal online:

For more information about the appeals process, see: Introduction to the Unemployment Benefits Appeal Process and How to Appeal a Decision.

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Appeals Notice

Appeals hearings are proceeding as scheduled. However, due to the unprecedented number of unemployment benefit claims that resulted from the pandemic, we are experiencing a significant delay processing and scheduling appeals. We are working to resolve all issues as quickly as possible.

If you have a hearing scheduled, please participate according to the directions on the Notice of Hearing. 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.

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Unemployment and Taxes

Unemployment benefits are taxable. Unemployment benefits must be reported on your federal income tax return. You can ask TWC to withhold 10 percent for federal income taxes from your unemployment benefit payments. In January, TWC will send all claimants who received benefits in 2020 an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 1099-G for their 2020 tax return.  It is important that you keep your mailing address up to date because we will send your IRS Form 1099-G to the address in our records. For more information, see: Federal Income Taxes & Your Unemployment Benefits.

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Fraud

Answer questions accurately and truthfully. You commit fraud if you knowingly provide false or misleading information or withhold relevant information for yourself or another person, to obtain or increase benefits. Unemployment benefits fraud is punishable by law, both felony and misdemeanor, and violators could face serious penalties and consequences.

If you commit unemployment fraud, you must pay back benefits you were not entitled to receive. In addition, you could face a variety of penalties, including:

  • Criminal prosecution by state or federal authorities
  • A possible jail or prison sentence and/or fines
  • Loss of remaining benefits on your claim

For more information see Unemployment Benefits Fraud

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U.S. Department of Labor Fraud Alert

The U.S. Department of Labor has issued an unemployment insurance phishing fraud alertPDF.

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Privacy/Confidentiality

Your claim is confidential. However, we share some information with government agencies and their contractors for the administration and enforcement of laws, including verifying eligibility for public assistance, supporting law enforcement activities, and other purposes permitted by law. Allowable uses of confidential information may include performing statistical analysis, research and evaluation.

Disclosure may be made to entities that manage and evaluate programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, nutrition assistance, and child support. We mail a notice of your claim to your last employer and may communicate with other former employers. If we pay you benefits by debit card, we share information with U.S. Bank because it manages your debit-card account. U.S. Bank and government agencies with access to information must agree to comply with state and federal laws regarding the confidentiality of claim information.

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