The Texas Workforce Commission, the agency that manages the state’s unemployment benefits system, has begun to disperse $600 weekly payments from the federal government, a spokesperson said.

TWC spokesperson Cisco Gamez said April 15 that the agency paid out $183 million in unemployment benefits April 13 to roughly 137,000 residents.

These numbers, which represent a large increase from the April 6 total of $41 million paid to 64,000 claimants, included the first $600 weekly payments that were part of the federal stimulus package, Gamez said.

The federal stimulus benefits are in addition to the state’s normal payments, which can amount to up to $521 per week, depending on an applicant’s former income.

Texans may be eligible to receive benefits if they have been laid off or furloughed or had their hours reduced.

The agency is also equipped now to serve independent contractors or self-employed people who have lost business as a result of the coronavirus shutdowns, Gamez said.

The Texas Workforce Commission will ensure that all qualified applicants for unemployment benefits receive their payments covering back to when they lost their job or saw their hours reduced, even if they apply later, Gamez said. This applies back to March 8, he said.

Residents who qualify for unemployment can apply at the Texas Workforce Commission website. This is the preferred way for people to file, Gamez said.

The agency has also expanded its call center staffing and hours. The lines are now open seven days a week from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.