AUSTIN, Texas — While the State continues to add workers and phone lines to process unemployment claims, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and several employers met on a webinar held by the Austin Chamber of Commerce on Monday.
Here's a rundown of the information provided by a TWC representative.
Information for employees
If your hours are cut, but you’re still employed, you may be able to get some money if the business signs up for “Shared Work.”
“The Shared Work program is an alternative to [an] employer laying off their employees. It is. They reduced our program. The employer applies for the Shared Work program that the Texas Workforce Commission manages once their application is approved. Their employees have to be working at least 24 to 36 hours based on a 40-hour workweek. That is a 10 to 40% reduction in a 40-hour workweek. Once the employer files the applications approved, their employees would then have to go on to our Unemployment Benefits Services site and file an application indicating that they want to participate in the employer's program. Once they do that, then the employer would go back to our Employer Benefits Services website and report the reduced hours in order for the individuals to be paid benefits. They must be available and accept any work offered to them by the employer. If they refused any work, then the Texas Workforce Commission will determine if they are eligible for payment."
If you get laid off and pick up contract work, like Uber or Lyft, you still may get unemployment. However, you need to let the State know.
“Any work they perform or earnings they earn actually would be deducted from their unemployment benefits. We often do see individuals that will have some part-time work, and that's fine as long as they report it so that we can make that calculation and deduct it from the benefits that we would be paying."
Those self-employed, like real estate agents, can qualify for the $600 CARES Act money. TWC requires proof of income, so expect what looks like a denial first.
“You will get an initial notice that says you're ‘monetarily not eligible,’ but we will reach out to you to get that additional information, which will be proof such as your tax return from for 2019 or any documents that you have that will demonstrate the earnings that you had as far as the profits are concerned."
For those seeking a “shared work” benefit, if you have reduced pay but still work full-time, you’re out of luck on getting any benefit.
“In order to be eligible for the Shared Work program, your hours must be reduced between at least 10% but no more than 40%. If only your pay is being reduced, then no, you would not be eligible for the Shared Work program for salaried employees. Their hours and their pay have to be reduced between 10 to 40%, their hours 10 to 40% with the pay also being reduced. Of course, that's in conjunction with what the federal government allows. For exempting salaried employees as far as their reduction in pay, there are some circumstances where you can reduce their pay because there is no work and there are certain circumstances where you cannot."
April is a new quarter. So, it’s a new base period for the TWC.
“This is for W2 workers. If they received a notice that said that they were not monetarily eligible because they did not have enough in the base period, they should try again now that April is here … We look at the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters, and that's what we make our calculation on to determine how much unemployment benefits an individual will qualify for. So, for example, this past March of last month, when someone applied for benefits at that time, the base period would have covered Oct. 1, 2018, through Sept. 30, 2019.
That would have been the base period that we would have determined or made our calculation on to determine how much they would qualify for weekly. Now that we're in April, the quarter has moved down. So, we would be looking at all of 2019. So, now the base period is Jan. 1, 2019, through Dec. 31, 2019."
Important note: If you get laid off and your employer wants you back, if you’re still unemployed and you say "no," you can lose that unemployment.
“Some employers may give an employee a definite return-to-work day. If they did not return back within that time period, we would probably view it as a quit if a person was actually laid off. And then the employee called them several weeks later and said, 'We're open, back up. A job is available.' We may look at that as a job refusal. Whether it is a job refusal or a quit, it is still something that we would want to investigate and make a ruling on."
Information for employers
Consider “batch claims” to reduce the number of calls you get for employment verification.
“The Mass Claims Program is a program where an employer can submit a partial claim for their employees. This, the benefit of this is that the employees do not have to go on to our website or to file an initial unemployment claim. The employer gives us the preliminary information to set up a batch claim where it is a partial claim that it takes the employee to activate. If the employee wants to activate the batch claim that was filed by their employer, then every two weeks they will sign on to either our website or go to our automated payment system and request those payments. Once they do a payment request that activates the batch claim that the employer filed for them … The benefit to the employer is we stop sending out a notice. They don't get a notice on every claim."
Austin Chamber of Commerce Webinar - Tips for job seekers
Austin Chamber of Commerce Webinar - Employer-focused questions
The Austin Chamber of Commerce has a list of COVID-19 resources for employers and employees on its website.
If you need to file an unemployment claim, the TWC asks to follow the suggested call time.
MORE CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE:
- LIST: Confirmed Central Texas coronavirus cases by county
- What KVUE employees have done to stay entertained while working from home
- Austin developer turns to tech to fight COVID-19
- As many Central Texas school districts turn to online learning, Austin ISD parents explain their routines
- Round Rock ISD food services employee tests positive for coronavirus
- SAFE Alliance, Texas Advocacy Project taking calls for those facing family violence while staying home
- Gov. Abbott announces Care.com initiative to increase in-home child care for frontline workers
- St. David's HealthCare launches 'HeroCare' to show support for medical workers during the coronavirus pandemic
- Pflugerville companies turn to 3D printing to make needed protective equipment