With more than one million Texans receiving unemployment benefits amid the ongoing pandemic, the Texas Workforce Commission has changed its criteria for determining whether someone is eligible.
Specifically, many people will be allowed to refuse to return to work but still receive unemployment benefits, if they meet any one of several requirements:
- High risk - If a worker is at “high risk.” defined by the TWC as individuals 65 years and older, as they are at higher risk for becoming very sick from COVID-19;
- Household member at high risk - If a worker’s household member is at high risk. This includes household members 65 years or older;
- Diagnosed with COVID-19 - If a worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19, having tested positive for the virus by a source that is authorized by the State of Texas, and they have yet to recover;
- Household member diagnosed with COVID-19 - If a worker has a household family member with COVID-19, having tested positive for the virus by a source that is authorized by the State of Texas, the family member yet to recover, and 14 days have not yet passed;
- Quarantined - If a worker is currently in 14-day quarantine due to close contact exposure to COVID-19; or
- Childcare needs - If a worker’s child’s school or daycare is closed, and there are no available childcare alternatives.
Laurie Larrea, President of Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas, noted that her office deals with many people who are now in a position to weigh their options of whether it is best to continue receiving unemployment benefits or to return to the working world and risk exposure to the coronavirus.
“There are definitely people we talk to every day who are questioning it,” Larrea said. “The benefits are rather lucrative right now, but the benefits are not going to last.”
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Larrea said if someone is considering staying on unemployment primarily because their job has been eliminated, or has changed significantly from the one they used to do prior to the shutdowns, she would advise them to get back to work.
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“I think the whole conversation now has to be about your ability to adapt to what is new. Make a new chapter for yourself. And I think that is true for all of us, whether or not you are in a job or are transitioning,” Larrea said.