Rise in Unemployment Strains Texas Workforce Commission

Unemployment insurance claims are up about 60 percent over last year, and with so many people filing for unemployment benefits, the Texas Workforce Commission is finding its system overwhelmed.

Across Texas and in many other states, unemployed people are finding it nearly impossible to file for benefits.

Fort Worth resident Billy Fulcher said he has been trying to get someone on the phone for days.

"It's just frustrating, you know," Fulcher said. "You can't get any customer service on here unless you call like 20, 30, 40 times. You may be here all day."

Jamie Foster said she has been trying to file for unemployment benefits after she lost her teaching job at a charter school in Irving.  She said she can't log onto the TWC Web site.

"It's telling me the page cannot be displayed. This is like my third time starting over, and it's very frustrating, and I'm really getting upset," Foster said. "This is only a 15-minute process that's taken about an hour and 1/2 to two hours.

The Texas Workforce Commission said an unprecedented number of people are filing either first-time claims or extensions. Tarrant County alone now has more than 18,000 laid-off workers. The number is up from less than 2,400 six months ago.

"Because there's just so many of them, they're having to hire additional staff to support the amount of layoffs and company closures that we're seeing here," said Brenda Harrist, of Workforce Solutions. "As you can see from the resource room, it's full. We only have so many computers for them to go on."

The Texas Workforce Commission said it is already hired 110 additional workers, and is in the process of hiring 70 more at its call center and said it won't penalize those who aren't able to file in a timely manner.

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