Texas has doled out $6.4B in unemployment benefits, projects state fund to run out by end of May

Customers wait in line at NeWorlDeli in Austin on May 1. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Customers wait in line at NeWorlDeli in Austin on May 1. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Customers wait in line at NeWorlDeli in Austin on May 1. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the additional benefits a claimant can receive per week.

Texans receiving unemployment benefits will not notice any delay in payments even if the state’s unemployment fund runs out toward the end of May as projected by officials.

This is because the state has already received approval to draw what is known as Title XII advances, or interest-free loans, to cover unemployment benefits for those who have lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It looks like we’re going to switch over [to withdraw federal funds] the last week in May, possibly the first week in June. Everyone who is receiving benefits, they’re not going to see a difference,” Cisco Gamez, media and public relations specialist for the TWC’s communication department, told Community Impact Newspaper.

On March 26, Gov. Greg Abbott announced he requested access to the Title XII funds, which allows states to receive advances or loans from the federal government to cover unemployment benefits without any delay to those who need them, according to the governor’s website.

Gamez said the state made a request to withdraw up to $1.8 billion in May, $2.6 billion in June and $2 billion in July. He said the actual amount the state ends up borrowing could differ based on the daily draws for benefits.

Since March 14, the state has received more than 2.6 million unemployment claims and paid out more than $6.4 billion in benefits. Of that, $3.9 billion has come from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which provides an additional $600 per week for claimants on top of their regular benefits.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance fund has provided $282 million to claimants. This fund provides benefits to those who are self-employed or independent contractors and would typically not be eligible for unemployment benefits, according to the TWC.

Because unemployment benefits are paid out every two weeks, this means those who out of work during the pandemic could receive $1,200 every two week on top of their regular unemployment benefits. Gamez said the additional benefits are guaranteed for eligible claimants through July 25.

Analysis of those claims by Community Impact Newspaper showed that the number of weekly claims rose more than 1,100% from the week ending March 14 and the week ending May 16.

Looking at the number of claims by industry, the accommodation and food service industry had the most claims, totaling 283,370 between March 1 and May 9. Those in the retail trade totaled 198,800 claims in that same time period.

“I don’t think anyone was prepared for all of this,” Gamez said. “We certainly made preparations. This is a record number of unemployment claims. In two months’ time, I think we did over three years’ worth of claims.”

By Amy Denney

Managing Editor, Austin metro

Amy has worked for Community Impact Newspaper since September 2010, serving as reporter and senior editor for the Northwest Austin edition as well as covering transportation in the Austin metro. She is now managing editor for the 10 publications in the Central Texas area from Georgetown to New Braunfels. She enjoys spending time with her husband, son and two cats.