BENEFITS

How to Apply For Texas Unemployment Benefits | Eligibility Requirements

Want to apply for Texas unemployment benefits online? This guide will help you know everything about the procedure and Texas unemployment eligibility.

As of this writing, the Texas Tribune reports that joblessness in the Lone Star State is at an all-time high. From mid-March to early June of 2020, 2.4 million unemployment claims were filed.


Like many states, Texas has relaxed some of its eligibility requirements during the coronavirus pandemic. It has also extended benefits to workers who are ineligible under normal circumstances. Examples include self-employed people, independent contractors and gig workers.


Furthermore, the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, supplements the TWC program with additional benefits.


If you’re out of work, keep reading to find out if you qualify for benefits and where to access the Texas unemployment application. 


Texas Unemployment Eligibility Requirements in the Regular Program


Under normal circumstances, the Texas Workforce Commission evaluates claims and determines benefits based on three criteria:

Past wages

These are defined as taxable wages that you earned in Texas during a base period. 


The base period is the year leading up to the quarter before the one in which you file your claim. For workers who filed claims in April 2020, for example, the base period was Jan. 1, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2019.


These requirements must have been met during the base period:


  • You must have earned wages in more than one of the four quarters of your base period.
  • Total base period earnings must be at least 37 times the amount of your weekly benefit. 
  • If you filed a claim in the past and qualified for assistance, you must have earned six times the new weekly benefit amount since then.


Weekly benefits, which currently range from $69 to $521, are calculated starting with the highest-earning quarter in the base period. Total wages in that quarter are divided by 25 and rounded to the nearest dollar.


The TWC sometimes makes exceptions for people who were out of work for a long stretch during the base period. If you have verifiable proof that you were seriously ill, injured, disabled or pregnant and could not work, the TWC might consider an alternate base period.


Circumstances of job separation

In a nutshell, you must be unemployed or working reduced hours through no fault of your own. Layoffs, downsizing, pay cuts, and even being fired for a reason other than misconduct — such as being a bad fit for the job — are all valid reasons to file for benefits.


In most cases, it’s a different story if you quit your job. These are some of the exceptions:


  • Working conditions were unsafe.
  • You have difficulty getting paid or are not receiving the promised amount of pay.
  • Your boss isn’t abiding by your hiring agreements.
  • Illness or injury forced you to quit.
  • Your minor child has a long-term illness.
  • Your spouse has a terminal illness.


There are some more exceptions, so read the fine print on the TWC website.


Ongoing requirements

Traditionally, the TWC has required a waiting week before benefits are paid. Claimants’ first week is withheld until they have either returned to work full time and earned double their weekly benefit amount or they have exhausted their benefits.


Claimants typically must also register for work on WorkInTexas.com, meet minimum job-search requirements, and log their search activities each time they request benefits. 


Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the waiting week and job-search requirements have been waived.


Additional Changes to Texas Unemployment Eligibility During the Pandemic


Self-employed workers, independent contractors and gig workers are not usually eligible for unemployment assistance. The TWC has made a temporary exception.


If you’re self-employed or do not monetarily qualify for regular Texas unemployment, you have a good chance of qualifying for $207 per week under Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. 


Some of the rules pertaining to how you lost your job have also temporarily changed. You may qualify for Texas unemployment benefits if you meet one or more of these conditions:

  • You have a health issue, such as diabetes or respiratory problems, that puts you at high risk for contracting COVID-19.
  • You have tested positive for coronavirus or been diagnosed with it.
  • You live with someone who has tested positive, with someone who is older than 65, or with someone who is immunocompromised.
  • You were officially told to quarantine for at least 14 days. 
  • You have at least one child whose school or day care was closed because of the pandemic.


Texas Unemployment Benefits Amid Fear of Returning to Work


Can you lose your benefits if you refuse to return to work or accept a suitable job because you’re afraid of getting coronavirus? That’s not exactly clear.


There’s an ongoing debate in Texas and other states about ordering people with legitimate fears to get back to work. That’s especially true of workers who know their former or future employers are lax with COVID-19 safety guidelines.


For now, assume that you will lose your benefits if you don’t go back to work when requested to or turn down a job in order to stay safe.


That having been said, The Dallas Morning News reported in mid-May that special circumstances during the pandemic are considered on a case-by-case basis.


Types and Durations of Benefits and Extensions


You may be eligible for an extension after you exhaust your benefits. The types of assistance break down this way:

  • Regular unemployment up to 26 weeks.
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC, up to 13 weeks.
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, up to 39 weeks.
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, or FPUC, of $600 per week from April 4, 2020, through July 25, 2020.


If you are eligible for an extension, the TWC will notify you by mail or email with instructions.


How to Apply for Unemployment in Texas


You can apply for benefits online or by calling the TWC at 800-939-6631. However, the TWC strongly urges people to use the online system as call centers are still overwhelmed.


Either way, have these on hand when you apply:

  • Your Social Security number.
  • Your last employer’s business name, phone number and address.
  • The starting and ending dates of your jobs during the base period. 
  • If you worked during the week you apply for unemployment, the number of hours you worked and your pay rate.
  • Information about what you expect to earn in the position you’re seeking.
  • If you’re not a U.S. citizen, your alien registration number.
  • If you served in the military in the last 18 months, your starting and ending dates and a copy of your DD Form 214.


Go to twc.texas.gov, and follow these steps:

  • On the homepage, click on the “Job Seekers & Employees” tab. Under “Unemployment Benefits,” select “Apply for Benefits.”
  • There’s a tutorial provided. Just follow the prompts for creating a user ID and password. Fill out the online Texas unemployment application.
  • The TWC will notify you by email when it has made a decision. Each time you log in, you can check for communications or updates.
  • If you’re approved for benefits, you’re responsible for requesting payment every two weeks. Log in, and go to “Job Seekers & Employees.” Choose “Request a Payment.” You can receive Texas unemployment benefits by direct deposit or on a debit card.


There’s one important note for self-employed workers: When you come to the “Employer” box, enter your own name. You’ll be automatically denied for regular benefits, but you will most likely qualify for PUA if you check “COVID-19” as the reason for your unemployment. If you get PUA, you’ll automatically get FPUC as well.


You’ll never know unless you apply.


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Frequently asked questions

What are unemployment benefits?

Unemployment benefits, also known as “unemployment insurance,” is a program run by state governments to help support citizens who have recently lost their jobs via temporary cash assistance. This comes in the form of a weekly check in the mail or direct deposit, based on the amount you were earning previously and how many people depend on you for financial support.

The money comes from taxes that businesses pay the state government each paycycle on behalf of their employees.

How do I know if I’m eligible for unemployment benefits?

You’ll need to check the eligibility requirements in your state, which can be found here.

Because of COVID-19, self-employed workers and gig workers are newly eligible for assistance, so pay close attention to any updated materials.

How long can I receive unemployment benefits?

After filing a claim, those who are eligible can receive assistance for usually up to 26-weeks, but this has increased an additional 13-weeks because of COVID-19.

Will unemployment benefits have to be paid back? Will I have to pay taxes on the money?

As long as you are following the rules of the program, which are specific to each state, the money will not have to be paid back. You will be required to pay a tax of 10% on the funding, which you can choose to have withheld from the check or to pay while filing your annual state/federal taxes at a later date.

Please note that it is illegal to file a claim for unemployment benefits if you do not meet the requirements. If caught, you face a penalty of even more than the amount received in assistance.

How do I apply for unemployment benefits?

Complete the quiz at the top of the page to be directed to your state's online benefit application.