Although the Texas Workforce Commission has reinstated a work search requirement for Texans collecting unemployment, most North Texans won’t have to show they are actively looking for work for at least another month.
The TWC reinstated the work search requirement for people collecting benefits starting November 1 after suspending it for much of the pandemic.
However, Workforce Development Boards in individual counties determine the minimum number of required work search activities – to be based on local job market conditions.
And most North Texas counties are choosing not to require any work searches – at least not yet.
Last Thursday, Greater Dallas Workforce Solutions said it set the work search requirement to zero for workers collecting unemployment benefits in Dallas County.
Laurie Bouillion Larrea, President and CEO of Greater Dallas Workforce Solutions, tells NBC 5 it made the change on Thursday for a 30-day period. Bouillion Larrea said the board will review job search requirements monthly.
Workforce Solutions for Tarrant County and Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas, which serves a 14-county region, set their work search requirements to zero on Friday.
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Both agencies said they, too, would reassess on November 30.
Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, Denton, Ellis, Hood, Hunt, Johnson, Kaufman, Navarro, Palo Pinto and Parker, Rockwall and Somerville Counties do not require any work searches as a condition of receiving benefits at this time.
Van Zandt, Grayson, Henderson and Jack Counties each list three work searches currently required per week.
Cooke and Fannin Counties are listed as requiring two weekly work searches.
Montague County requires one weekly work search.
You can look up your county requirements here.
The latest data available shows Texas’ unemployment rate was 8.3% in September. It’s down from a high of 13.5 in April, but still higher than the 3.4% unemployment rate last September.
In October, the TWC moved to bring back the work search requirement for much of the state.
“Work search is a federal requirement. We knew it was going to have to come back at some point,” said TWC spokesperson James Bernsen.
“We've seen more and more businesses open and changed policies to allow them to open with social distancing, the things that they can do safely. Work search is more appropriate at this time,” added Bernsen.
Work searches can be done virtually. Training and creating re-employment plans also count towards the requirements, listed here.
Krystal Johnson, a former restaurant employee in Dallas, said the job market hasn’t rebounded enough to require work searches anytime soon.
“Requiring people to do this now in the middle of this is heartless, honestly,” said Johnson.
Johnson points to an industry, on its knees, and wearily watching another climb in COVID-19 cases.
“Even if every service industry worker right now went out and got a job today, where are the jobs?” Johnson asked.
Ivy Vance, a former restaurant worker and local organizer with Restaurant Workers United, said some don’t feel safe returning to work even if a job is offered.
“They think it's our problem and that if they push us back into the market, then we'll get a job. But every situation is different and they need to listen to the workers,” said Vance.
And as the pandemic continues, many Texans who began collecting unemployment benefits in March will see those benefits exhausted later this year unless Congress agrees to fund and extend benefits.
Vance is calling on Congress to do more to help people still struggling during the pandemic.
“It seems that everyone is severely out of touch with reality right now except for the people who are actually living through it,” Vance added.
According to the TWC's list of reasons for work refusal, people 65 years or older, people with certain medical conditions or people who live with someone who is high risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 may refuse a job offer and still receive unemployment benefits. People who have tested positive for COVID-19 or people quarantined because of possible exposure may also continue to receive benefits. The TWC said it evaluates work refusals on a case-by-case basis.
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