Commuting to and from work two months ago was the norm for many across the United States. Now, many finding themselves working from home or have lost their jobs entirely due to the effects of the new coronavirus or COVID-19. Following the implementation of shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders, most are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, while non-essential businesses close down indefinitely, leaving many in the dark. Now, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, so do unemployment claims.
In early March, many saw the beginnings of the rise in unemployment claims due to COVID-19. At the time, the increase from 211,000 to 281,000 represented a 33% jump in claims, faster than the rise in claims following the Great Recession, which was 14%.
Unemployment claims only continue to surge. As of April 2, claims had risen 3,000% since the early March reports, as businesses continue to layoff and furlough employees. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in the week ending March 28, 6.6 million workers filed for their first week of unemployment benefits—a new historic high.
Normally, a sharp increase in claims can be expected in the weeks following a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey. This isn’t the case with the coronavirus pandemic, however, as claims are expected to continue to rise in the coming weeks. As companies continue to shed workers and close their doors, more Americans will need government aid, and Texas is no exception.
Texas Coronavirus Unemployment Claims
In Texas, the number of unemployment claims filed since COVID-19 measures began shutting down businesses last month has surpassed 700,000, according to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). However, economists believe claims data reported in Texas and other states most likely fails to capture the full extent of job loss because thousands of people have been unable to get through crowded phone lines and crashing websites to file unemployment benefit applications.
The sheer number of people trying to access the phone line and website has completely overwhelmed the TWC system. On an average day, TWC receives around 13,000 calls. Just last week, there were multiple days where it had more than 1.5 million calls in a 24-hour period. The record number for that timeframe before the coronavirus outbreak was 60,000 calls in a day.
Currently, the TWC is working with the Department of Information Resources to enhance its servers and provide increased staffing. The unemployment division has more than 1,000 workers and plans to add 350 more.
The $2 trillion federal stimulus package passed by congress will add $600 to each unemployment check; however, many Texans will not be able to receive one due to issues applying for benefits. Because of likely ongoing delays, the TWC will provide a backpay option to applicants, allowing them to receive funds starting on the first day of their unemployment or reduced hours.
Houston Employment Attorneys
As unemployment claims continue to rise, having the knowledge of an experienced employment attorney can bring you peace of mind during these uncertain times. At Feldman & Feldman, our legal team is here to help you with whatever employment issues you are facing. We represent employees and employers, so contact us today to see how we can help.