Since March 14, more than 1.1 million Texans have applied for unemployment insurance.

The Texas Workforce Commission has paid out more than $408 million in benefits during that time, TWC spokesperson Cisco Gamez said.

“We want to help with tips and information to apply and receive benefits,” Gamez said. “That is a year and a half of claims in less than a month, and roughly half of those Texans have requested payments.”

In order to accommodate the influx of unemployment requests, the TWC has extended hours, increased staffing and work hours and started work to improve online and phone systems, Gamez said. The TWC is now available to contact by phone seven days a week from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., he said.

“Our goal is to help people work and continue working and to help employers grow,” Gamez said. “Our job is to help Texans in need during tough times by providing the benefits they need and deserve.”

Unemployment benefits typically last a maximum of 26 weeks for Texas residents, Gamez said, but through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, unemployment benefits will be extended an additional 13 weeks, he said.

The TWC is looking at recent unemployment claims as far back as March 8, Gamez said.

The TWC will look at the date an employee lost their job, had their hours reduced, was furloughed or lost work for another reason.

In addition, the CARES Act will provide an additional $600 in weekly benefits through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation mandate, and self-employed individuals and contractors are eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Gamez said.

“We are going to help everyone that qualifies for unemployment insurance,” he said. “If you qualify, you will receive benefits.”

Texas residents can apply for unemployment benefits online or by calling the TWC at 800-939-6631.