What to Know
- Gov. Abbott opting Texans out of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.
- Leaving the program ends the $300 per week unemployment supplemental payment from the federal government.
- End date is June 26, 2021, according to governor's statement.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) says Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment compensation related to the COVID-19 pandemic next month, thereby ending the $300 weekly unemployment supplement from the federal government, in order to help unemployed Texans get back to work and to curtail fraudulent unemployment claims.
He joins at least a dozen other governors, all Republicans, who are opting out of the additional federal unemployment benefits this summer.
The money is part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus measure approved in March and is set to expire in September. But business groups urged Abbott to opt-out early, arguing it was hampering the Texas economy’s rebound.
In his letter to the Department of Labor, Abbott said Texas will opt out of other expanded federal unemployment benefits that were part of the Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus Act, including one making gig workers and the self-employed eligible for assistance for the first time. The full list is below:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (Section 2102), Addendum No. 1
- Emergency Unemployment Relief For Governmental Entities And Nonprofit Organizations (Section 2103)
- Emergency Increase in Unemployment Compensation Benefits – Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (Section 2102), Addendum No. 2
- Temporary Full Federal Funding Of The First Week Of Compensable Regular Unemployment For States With No Waiting Week (Section 2105), Addendum No. 3
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (Section 2107), Addendum No. 4 and Addendum No. 5 To Agreement Implementing Relief for Workers Affected by Coronavirus, as amended by section 261 of the Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act of 2020
- Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (Section 2104), Addendum No. 5
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“The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring in communities throughout the state,” said Abbott. “According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment benefits."
Abbott said the open jobs assessment "does not include the voluminous jobs that typically are not listed, like construction and restaurant jobs. In fact, there are nearly 60 percent more jobs open (and listed) in Texas today than there was in February 2020, the month before the Pandemic hit Texas.”
"At this stage of opening the state 100 percent, the focus must be on helping unemployed Texans connect with the more than a million job openings, rather than paying unemployment benefits to remain off the employment rolls," Abbott said in a statement.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), via the governor's statement, "nearly 45 percent of posted jobs offer wages greater than $15.50 per hour. Approximately 76 percent pay more than $11.50 per hour. Only 2 percent of posted jobs pay around the minimum wage."
Abbott said the high level of fraudulent unemployment claims is another reason to curtail the federal benefit.
In the governor's statement, he said the TWC estimated that nearly 18 percent of all claims for unemployment benefits during the pandemic are confirmed or suspected to be fraudulent, which totaled more than 800,000 claims, worth as much as $10.4 billion if all claims had been paid.
NBC 5 Responds reported in April that between March 2020 and March 2021, the Texas Workforce Commission identified 373,000 claimants as suspicious of ID theft. Compare that to the 1,142 suspicious claims in 2019.
The TWC pointed out not all identified claims are confirmed ID theft, but most likely are. Of the 373,000 claims considered suspicious during the pandemic, the TWC said stopped most of the claims, around 255,000, before any payments went out. Even so, the TWC estimated it paid approximately $577 million in fraudulent unemployment benefits during the pandemic.
The TWC said Monday afternoon that they and their workforce solutions partners would continue to offer services to assist individuals in finding employment and training. The TWC said they will be providing additional information to claimants as they transition away from the federal programs.