In recent weeks there have been no shortage of problems as thousands of Texans have applied to the Texas Workforce Commission for help.
But many of those problems, due in large part to the system being overwhelmed by demand, where supposed to be on the mend.
However, in recent days a letter has gone out causing panic among thousands of self-employed workers who lost their income due to COVID-19. The letter appears to inform them they have earned no money and are thus ineligible for benefits.
“I was upset because I feel like I’ve been in a hamster wheel of trying to receive unemployment,” Linsye Taylor said, who received the letter last week.
Full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it impacts you
According to the TWC, the letter is not a mistake and was sent to an estimated 145,000 people. In a series of emails to NBCDFW, the TWC defended its issuance of the letter and passed along guidance for self-employed claimants, which is pasted at the bottom of this article.
“I reached out to (State) Sen. Birdwell’s office to find out how do we correct this, what’s going on and that’s when we realized this was an 'oopsie' letter,” Taylor said.
Birdwell told NBC 5 on Friday he reached out to the TWC for clarification after hearing Taylor’s story.
"It comes across as a final letter, the constituent doesn't know it's an interim letter that says you don't qualify, now that creates a major public relations challenge,” Birdwell said.
Birdwell explained the letter is part of a confusing technicality, where the state had to show it exhausted resources before issuing federal aid that self-employed workers are eligible for as it relates to the pandemic.
According to Birdwell, a follow up letter is to be issued in the next week.
Below are the Texas Work Force Commission’s full answers to NBC 5’s questions about the letter:
Why are self-employed claimants receiving a letter stating that they made $0 in the last four quarters?
Because TWC has no record of self-employed receiving wages because self-employed individuals did not receive pay from an employer. Employers in Texas must report quarterly all the wages they pay to each employee. These wage records are what we base unemployment claims on. Self-employed, contract and gig workers do not have their wages reported, so our records show they made $0.
The letters we sent do not “incorrectly” state they made $0. They have no wages on record so we cannot report that they do. This is why we ask for – and they must submit – their 2019 IRS info to TWC by Dec. 26. Then we will have a record of what they earned. It’s the only way.
For more details on the links below:
- Unemployment Guidance for Self-Employed, Contract and Gig Workers
- Frequently Asked Questions COVID 19
What can self-employed claimants do to avoid or correct this?
They should wait for us to finish automatically enrolling claimants into pandemic unemployment claims. Then, the self-employed, contract and gig workers must submit their 2019 IRS 1040 Schedule C, F or SE prior to December 26, 2020 by fax, email or mail:
- Fax: (512) 936-3250
- Mail: Texas Workforce Commission, P.O. Box 149137, Austin, TX 78714-9137
TWC will reevaluate their benefit amounts once we process their tax forms, which may result in an increase in their weekly payment. We are asking claimants to please be patient. This may take some time. They should not resubmit their forms unless we ask them to.