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COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits


This article was written by Texas Legal Services Center and applies only to COVID-19 related employment issues.

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if I lose my job or my work hours are cut due to COVID-19?

Yes, you should be eligible for unemployment benefits if you lose your job or your hours are reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Texas Workforce Commission has provided more information about qualifying job separation scenarios here. Review these scenarios to determine how COVID-19 may affect eligibility.

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if I am a contractor, a self-employed worker, or a gig worker and I lose my job or my work hours are cut due to COVID-19?

The state of Texas is ending its participation in federal pandemic unemployment benefit programs early and the final week that the TWC will pay federal pandemic unemployment benefits is the week of June 26th, 2021. This includes the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program for those who traditionally do not qualify for regular state benefits, such as self-employed and independent contractors. If you are currently receiving PUA, PEUC, and FPUC federal benefits, you may continue to request payment for all weeks for which you are eligible ending on June 26, 2021. You can still receive regular unemployment, however, the additional $300 a week benefit will end June 26, 2021. TWC will continue to pay you regular benefits after that date as long as you remain eligible.

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if my employer sends me home due to COVID-19?

If you are not getting paid your regular full pay and do not have paid leave or not enough paid leave to cover the time off, you may be eligible.

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if I refuse to return to work due to COVID-19?

Under normal circumstances, a worker who refuses suitable work may not receive unemployment benefits.  Because of the circumstances created by COVID-19, the TWC announced on June 16, 2020 that eligible workers may still receive unemployment benefits if they refuse to return to work because of any of the following reasons:

"Reason for refusal:

  • People 65 years or older, and/or people with medical issues, like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or a weakened immune system, or are at a higher risk for getting very sick from COVID‑19. (Source: DSHS website)
  • Household member at high risk – People 65 years or older or are at a higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 (source DSHS website).
  • Diagnosed with COVID - the individual has tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and is not recovered.
  • Family member with COVID - anybody in the household has tested positive for COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and is not recovered and 14 days have not yet passed.
  • Quarantined – individual is currently in 14-day quarantine due to close contact exposure to COVID-19.
  • Child care – Child’s school or daycare closed and no reasonable alternatives are available.

Any other situation will be subject to a case by case review by the Texas Workforce Commission based on individual circumstances."

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if my employer reduced my hours due to COVID-19?

Yes. If you are placed on reduced hours, you may be eligible for partial unemployment. You can check you eligibility by by calling TWC’s Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time Monday through Friday.

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if I stay home to care for a sick family member?

You may be eligible if you lose your job and the family member you are caring for is a sick child. You may not be eligible if the family member is an adult.

How do I apply for unemployment benefits?

If your employment has been affected by COVID-19, apply for benefits either online at any time using Unemployment Benefits Services or by calling TWC’s Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time Monday through Friday.

TWC is experiencing an increase in call volumes and hold times. You are encouraged to use their online claim portal, Unemployment Benefits Services (UBS), to handle your claim needs quickly.

Texas AFL CIO has also created a "how to" guide for navigating unemployment benefit applications. View it here.

Lone Star Legal Aid also has a tool to walk you through the unemployment benefits process. Access it here.

What information do I need to apply for benefits?

To get started you will need:

  • Social Security Number
  • Last employer's business name, address and phone number
  • First and last dates you worked for your last employer
  • Number of hours worked and pay rate at the time you apply 
  • Military employment (service) start/end dates and a copy of your DD Form 214(s) if you served in the military during the past 18 months
  • Your alien registration number, if not a U.S. citizen or national

How much will I get if I am approved for benefits?

The amount you get in unemployment benefits varies. You can estimate your unemployment benefits online.

If you are receiving income from a pension, annuity, or retirement income, this may affect how much you receive in unemployment benefits.

If I am approved when will my benefits start?

TWC is processing claims as quickly as possible, but it can take at least four weeks to determine if you are eligible for benefits. Governor Abbott granted the Texas Workforce Commission’s request to suspend the one-week waiting period. You will be able to receive benefits immediately after your unemployment benefit application is approved.  

Where can I search for a new job?

You can search for jobs at Visit the Texas Workforce Commission web site for the latest.

Do I have to look for a new job to get unemployment benefits?

The Texas Workforce Commission has reinstated its job search requirement effective November 1st. For most receiving unemployment benefits, this means you will need to prove they’ve done at least three job searches per week in order to remain eligible for benefits. Those job searches can be done online. The state had waived the job search requirement due to the pandemic, but with the economy back open, the state said it was time to reinstate the rule. However, Workforce Development Boards in individual counties determine the minimum number of required work search activities – to be based on local job market conditions. See the Required Number of Work Search Activities by County here. You will receive a Notice of Work Search Requirement and the number of weekly work search contacts that you are required to make in order to receive benefit payments. You are required to make a record of your work search efforts by recording the date and details of the work search (type of job, employer name, location, etc.).  Here’s the TWC work search activity log recipients can use keep track of their searches. TWC can request this activity log anytime during your benefit year, so retain a copy of your activity log for your records.  Read more here.


Am I eligible for unemployment benefits if I lose my job for a reason unrelated to COVID-19?

If you lose your job for another reason, you may still be eligible for unemployment benefits. Learn more about benefits at the TWC site and these TexasLawHelp articles.

How long do I have to wait before I can apply for benefits?

You should apply immediately if you lost your job due to COVID-19.

There is usually a one week waiting period, but the Texas Workforce Commission has waived that requirement for those who have lost their job due to COVID-19. 

I run a business and had to lay off employees due to COVID-19. Will I have to pay money toward my employees' unemployment benefits?

No. There are no charges to employers for COVID-19 unemployment claims.

Related Forms

  • Getting Texas Unemployment Benefits

    Learn about benefits eligibility, applications, payments, deadlines, and appeals. Created by Lone Star Legal Aid.