NBC 5 Responds: Work Search Requirement on Pause, But Extra Federal Unemployment Benefits Ending

Unemployment benefits change during a surge in COVID-19 cases

NBCUniversal, Inc.

The surge in COVID-19 cases is changing how North Texans navigate unemployment.

A work search requirement that was going to take effect July 6 is on hold, according to an announcement by the Texas Workforce Commission last week. The commission, in June, voted to reinstate the requirement but later reversed the decision once COVID-19 cases began to spike.

“We decided to halt that, just for the time being. We’re re-evaluating and we will continue to monitor the situation and re-visit this again toward the end of July,” said Texas Workforce Commission spokesperson Cisco Gamez.

While unemployed Texans won’t have to log job searches right away, people receiving unemployment do have to prepare for a significant decrease in weekly benefits.

The CARES Act coronavirus relief law increased unemployment benefits by $600 dollars a week, but the extra benefits under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program end July 25.

Without the extra federal benefits, Texans who were eligible for a max benefit of up to $1,121 a week will be eligible for a maximum state benefit of $521 a week - depending on previous income.

It would be up to Congress to consider extending the extra federal benefits.

“We don’t have any say of extending that or making any changes with that,” said Gamez.

“It’s making bills or it’s not making bills – it’s that simple,” said Kelley Kramer, a Dallas-based marketing professional who lost her job during the pandemic.

“If I don’t have that, do I pay the mortgage or do I pay a car payment or do I buy groceries? You have to make tough decisions,” Kramer added.

Kramer said she wasted no time launching her job search in a tough market. The unemployment rate in Texas was 13% in May.

“What I’m finding is it takes about 200 times to apply before I even get one phone call,” said Kramer.

And it’s unclear what will happen as cases rise in Texas where businesses were trying to rebound.

Job site Glassdoor said job openings went up 14% since May, though openings were down 19% from this time last year.

Governor Greg Abbott announced guidelines that reopened many businesses – starting in late April. However, in the post-reopening COVID-19 surge, Abbott ordered the closure of bars and reduced indoor dining capacity at restaurants to 50% by June 26.

“The pandemic has had a pretty unique impact on the labor market,” said Sarah Stoddard with Glassdoor. “In the past, when we’ve gone through a recession, it’s been tied to some sort of economic indicator now it’s based on a public health crisis.”

According to Glassdoor’s latest job market report: restaurants and bars, healthcare and hospitals, retail, transportation/logistics and information technology are posting the most openings – though many aren’t hiring like they were before the pandemic.

“For anybody looking for a new job right now, it might feel extra challenging to find that next opportunity,” said Stoddard. “Right now, it will be key to just stay flexible and nimble.”

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