TWC Encourages Employers to Enroll in Shared Work Program

Enrolling in Shared Work Program provides an Alternative to Layoffs During COVID-19

AUSTIN ⎯ The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) encourages employers to enroll in Shared Work program as an alternative to layoffs. The voluntary Shared Work program was developed to help Texas employers and employees withstand a slowdown in business such as the impact of COVID-19.

Shared Work allows employers to supplement their employees’ wages lost because of reduced work hours with partial unemployment benefits. Under the program employers can reduce normal weekly work hours for employees in an affected unit by at least 10 percent but not more than 40 percent. Shared Work unemployment benefits are payable to employees who qualify for and participate in an approved Shared Work Plan. Workers may choose not to participate. Employees who qualify will receive both wages and Shared Work unemployment benefits.

The employer can use the Shared Work Plan only for employees whose hours have been reduced. Shared Work benefits can be paid only for wages lost because of a reduction in the employee’s regular hours. Regular hours may not exceed 40 hours. An employee who normally works overtime may not receive shared work benefits for a reduction in their overtime hours.

Shared work employees must:

  • Submit their unemployment claims on Unemployment Benefits Services
  • Be eligible for regular unemployment benefits
  • Accept all work offered by the participating employer
  • Be able and available for work with the employer

For more information on the Shared Work Program or to apply for the program visit https://twc.texas.gov/businesses/shared-work

The Texas Workforce Commission is a state agency dedicated to helping Texas employers, workers and communities prosper economically. For details on TWC and the services it offers in coordination with its network of local workforce development boards, call 512-463-8942 or visit www.texasworkforce.org. To receive notifications about TWC programs and services subscribe to our email updates

TWC Begins Payments under CARES Act Extension

Those with exhausted benefits will be automatically re-enrolled; do not need to re-apply.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security CARES Act on the desk.

TWC has moved quickly to begin paying benefits under the CARES Act extension. We received Department of Labor (DOL) guidance on implementing the act on Friday, and over the weekend, our teams modified over 1.1 million current active benefit claims allowing customers to begin transitioning to the new extensions. We then began to make those payments the following Monday. In the first two days alone, TWC paid out over 44 million in the first two days. And this is the $300 per week payment alone.

Under the federal legislation, all Texans who are still unemployed due to COVID-19 and qualified for benefits will have them extended until March 13. This includes Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). They will also receive an additional $300 per week under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program.

  • No one should have to reapply for benefits.
  • If you are currently receiving benefits, continue to request payment.
  • If your benefits have been exhausted, we will automatically re-enroll you. If we need further information from you, we will contact you.
  • Regardless of when benefits were exhausted, all new benefits under the extended CARES Act begin with the week ending Jan 2 and will continue until March 13. People who did not receive that first week will get it backdated. There will be no back-dating of federal benefits prior to that week.

You do not need to contact the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) about these extensions. Due to high call volume at this time, you may experience difficulties reaching a customer service representative, and calling unnecessarily will cause delays for other Texans.

We are working expeditiously on updating eligible claims to take advantage of the new law and will make the necessary updates to your claim and notify you of your potential eligibility. If more information is needed, we will contact you with instructions.

Remember to monitor your email and check the TWC COVID-19 Resources Job Seekers webpage for current information and updates.

Additional information and resources:

There are many job openings in Texas right now. For help finding a job, please visit WorkInTexas.com, the state’s powerful online job matching and workforce services system, or use the virtual and in person services at local Workforce Solutions offices located throughout the state.

Protect Your Privacy on Social Media

Posting Personal Information Only Aids Scammers

If you are eligible for unemployment benefits in Texas, or seeking to find work, would you want your hard-earned dollars going to a scammer instead? That’s the risk many Texans take when they don’t protect their private information online.

Many Texans seeking unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are turning to Internet forums, chat sites and Facebook Groups to learn more about how UI works and to seek advice from others who have knowledge to share. While TWC encourages any private sites that provide factual information and help spread information about the resources we offer, even legitimate sites can be magnets for scammers, identity thieves and others seeking to gain at the expense of Texans needing help.

That’s why TWC encourages Texans to stay safe on online forums and groups. Never post the following:

  • Your phone number
  • Social Security number
  • Family or other personal details
  • Your work history
  • Screen shots that may include private information

Posting this or other information could be used by a scammer for identity theft reasons, or to target you for a too-good-to-be-true job opening. A scammer might even try to contact you offering to help you secure benefits for a cash payment. No one can file claims for benefits for you except you, and there is NEVER a charge to file.

Even if you do everything right, you still can be targeted by fraudsters. Starting with an identity found on social media, they can piece together publicly available information from other sites to put together an enticing pitch. Use common sense, verify phone numbers and email addresses whenever possible, and never pay anyone to help you find a job except legitimate recruiters.

If you are receiving TWC benefits and think you may have been the victim of identity theft, contact TWC immediately at our Fraud and Program Abuse Hotline 800-252-3642, or through our online fraud submission portal here. The Internet can be a dangerous place. Never let your guard down.

Combatting Fraud: Protecting Texans in the Era of COVID-19

When unemployment claims spike, fraudsters strike. How TWC protects you.

Unemployment insurance fraud is a serious problem that can potentially delay out-of-work Texans from getting the benefits they need and betray the taxpayers of Texas. Fortunately, TWC has strong protections to identify, track, and lock down fraud attempts, protecting Texas workers and the integrity of the Texas unemployment system. In most cases, we stop the fraud before a single dollar in benefits are paid out.

Historically, when a high-profile event causes mass unemployment in Texas, nefarious individuals see an opportunity to try to defraud the taxpayers. Most commonly, this fraud takes the form of identity theft. Identity theft occurs when nefarious actors steal someone’s identity in order to gain access to the victim’s unemployment benefits payments.

TWC identifies this kind of fraud in one of two ways: through its own internal systems monitoring and tips from employees or employers about suspicious activity. When this fraud is discovered, TWC locks down the account to stop money from going out.

How often does it happen?

Generally, fraud numbers are less than 1 percent of total claims. In fiscal year 2017, TWC identified and locked 2,023 claims for fraud concerns. In 2018, with the record-breaking number of disaster unemployment claims from Hurricane Harvey, TWC found and locked 7,973 claims.

This year, with the massive increase in COVID-19 claims, TWC has identified and locked nearly 12,500 claims. But this is still only 0.2 percent of the 5.8 million claims Texas has seen this year.

How does identity theft occur?

In almost every case, identities are stolen somewhere outside of TWC. That is why it is important that everyone protect their private information and not recycle passwords.

What can you do when you suspect you’re a victim of fraud?

Contact TWC immediately at our Fraud and Program Abuse Hotline 800-252-3642, or through our online fraud submission portal here. Bear in mind, though fraud tips are investigated immediately, you may not hear back right away.

With such a large increase in the volume of UI claims and corresponding fraud, TWC has prioritized investigation over notification, in order to stop fraud in its tracks and protect the integrity of the UI trust fund. Nonetheless, TWC is hiring additional agents to improve response times. For more information about identity theft fraud, see TWC’s fraud web page

What can you do if your account is locked incorrectly?

Because TWC takes fraud cases seriously, occasionally we block legitimate claims out of abundance of caution and send a contact request to verify your information. If your account is blocked, you can also use the same fraud web link and phone number above to contact us. Verifying information can be submitted through the portal, and once we have established that the claimant is indeed not the victim of identity theft, the fraud block is removed so they can access their benefits.

Other fraud prevention tips:

You can help us prevent fraud and protect your identity. If you are contacted about your benefits, remember that a TWC specialist will NEVER ask for your:

  • Credit card
  • Full bank account number
  • Fee payment

If someone asks for that information, you are encountering fraud. Report fraud using the link above.

Unemployment insurance is a contract between Texas and the workers of the Lone Star State. We can all play a part in protecting that promise by taking proactive steps to stop fraud in its tracks to ensure that the people of Texas can continue to get the benefits they need.

How do I complete my Work Search Requirements?

On November 1, 2020, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) reinstated work search requirements. TWC set the maximum number of work search activities claimants will be required to complete each week at 3 but, gave each local workforce area the ability to lower the required number based on the COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations in their area. Work search is a federal requirement that TWC suspended March 2020. Work search actives can be completed safely online and will help prepare claimants for the expiration of CARES Act funding on December 26, 2020.   

How many activities do I need to complete? 

TWC provided all claimants with a work search letter that lists the specific number they are required to meet. Depending on your preference you received this either through the mail at your mailing address or via electronic correspondence on your online unemployment benefits account. If you cannot locate your work search letter, no worries, use this link to locate the number of work search activities required in your workforce area.  

know my required number of work search activities. What do I have to do to complete them? 

First, you will need to identify that type of unemployment you are on. You can locate this information in your Statement of Benefits letter sent from TWC to either your physical mailbox or correspondence inbox.  

Once you know what type of claim you have, utilize the below chart to identify work search activities you can complete.  

I am self-employed, how do I complete work search activities? 

Self-Employed PUA claimants are required to undertake activities to resume their business and must certify this when requesting payment for unemployment benefits bi-weekly.  If the business will not reopen, Self-Employed PUA claimants are required to perform work search activities, meet the minimum number of weekly work search activities, and apply for jobs suitable to their skills and talents. They also have a resume waiting for their completion in WorkInTexas.com, the opportunity to apply for work through WorkInTexas.com, and have the same resources available to them as other job seekers through Workforce Solutions offices. 

I’ve completed my required number of work search activities, how do I let TWC know? 

Next time you request payment, TWC will ask if you have completed work search activities. You will confirm that you have completed them. Unless TWC contacts you for additional information, no further action is needed from you. Your work search requirements for the weeks you requested payment are complete! Just keep records to show you completed them.  

What additional information could TWC ask for? 

TWC may ask for your work search log. Claimants should keep a record of the work search activities they complete. We suggest you utilize this work search log. You will only need to submit these to TWC if asked. But you do need to make sure you keep your work search log for one year. While TWC may not ask for it right away, we have the right to ask for it within the claim year.   

The TWC Appeals Process

After applying for Unemployment Insurance benefits, your application will be reviewed and a determination regarding your eligibility will be decided. You will then be sent a Determination Notice. If something on the notice is incorrect, or you don’t agree with the outcome,  you may appeal.

What is an appeal?

An appeal is written notice that you disagree with a TWC decision and you want your case decided through the appeals process. You must appeal in writing within 14 calendar days from the date that we mail you the Determination Notice. The date mailed is located on the top of the Determination Notice form, and the last day you can file an appeal is at the bottom of the form. There are three ways to file an appeal:

  • Online
  • By Mail                                         
    • Appeal Tribunal                                                     
      Texas Workforce Commission
      101 E 15th St, Rm 410
      Austin, TX 78778-0001
  • By Fax 
    • 512-475-1135

What should I know before I file an appeal?

While you can submit an appeal by mail or fax, we recommend filing online through the TWC Unemployment Benefit Services (UBS) system because you will immediately receive confirmation that the appeal was filed. While you wait for a response on your appeal, continue to submit timely payment requests every two weeks. If you win the appeal, this will speed up the process for receiving any missed or owed payments. Please note that filing the same appeal multiple times will only slow the process down for you and others.

How long will the appeal process take?  

Currently, the average timeframe to process an appeal is 45-60 days which can change depending on workload. However, some appeals may be shorter, and some may take longer based on the complexity of the appeal or the number of appeals awaiting review.  

Is there any way to get my appeal reviewed faster?

To be fair to all Texans, all appeals are reviewed in the order they are received. We know a quick determination is important to you, so we are continually looking for ways to speed up the process. TWC has more than doubled appeals staff in response to the pandemic and continues to increase that staffing.

Overpayments for Unemployment Benefits Explained

We are here to work with you.

TWC understands this is a difficult and trying time for many, and the last thing the agency wants to do is place undue burden on any of our fellow Texans. So while getting a notice of overpayment may not be a pleasant or welcomed experience, do not let this weigh on your mind.

TWC will not be clawing back money, we will work with people to get this resolved in a way that won’t stress someone’s budget or mental health.  

What are Overpayments?

Overpayments occur when claimants receive unemployment benefits that they were not eligible to receive. TWC is required by law to collect overpaid funds.* The debt is never forgivable and will be owed to the state. However, if an overpayment was caused solely by a Commission error, the overpayment is not collectible. *Texas is prevented by court order from collecting overpayments caused solely by Commission error.

What caused the overpayment?

Most overpayments are due to honest errors made in the application process. Common errors include:

  • claimants forgetting to report a few days of income they made working part-time,
  • reporting an employment end date a day or two before the actual employment end date, or
  • inputting an incorrect wage (i.e. a claimant’s actual hourly rate was $12.75/hr but they thought it was $13.00/hr).

There are a variety of understandable reasons why overpayments can and might happen. Click here for a more comprehensive list.

I got a letter; do I need to pay my overpayment back now?

We recognize that if someone is struggling to make ends meet, the last thing TWC should do is strong-arm them into paying money they desperately need. TWC understands that there is a big difference between people not wanting to pay back money versus not being able too.

Currently, there is no penalty for not paying back the amount immediately and TWC is taking the approach of asking claimants to pay what they can, when they can. Whether that is $50 a month or $50 a week, TWC is flexible in how and when overpayments are being made.

Right now, if a claimant can’t make any payments and they need to wait until they’re back on their feet, TWC is not going to refer them to a collection agency.

The agency is not going to claw money out of a claimant’s account, stop their benefits, or even reduce their benefits. Claimants can pay TWC back when they are comfortably able too, so think of an overpayment letter as TWC’s way of reaching out so that the agency can work with claimants on a solution. TWC will work with everybody that needs help and is willing to work with the agency on getting this resolved.

Will I be charged interest?

Only on cases of fraud are claimants charged interest.

How do I know if I committed fraud?

Simple, honest mistakes are not fraud.

If a claimant forgets to tell TWC that they worked for a few hours, or accidently reported their last day of work a day early that is not fraud.

A claimant commits fraud if they knowingly provide false or misleading information or withhold relevant information to obtain or increase benefits.

The most common types of fraud are when a claimant purposefully takes steps to get money they did not deserve or claimed that that they were somebody else. If someone commits fraud, the agency is much more aggressive in pursuit of money owed and there are penalties and interest. TWC will work with local district attorneys, law enforcement and federal law enforcement to recoup money.

Can I appeal overpayment?

Yes, claimants can appeal an overpayment or fraud charge within 14 days from the mail date listed on the Texas Workforce Commission decision.

If a claimant thinks there has been an error, TWC encourages them to appeal. On the overpayment letter will be instructions for how claimants can appeal and a date to appeal by.

If someone appeals by fax, they should keep their fax confirmation as proof of transmission. Do note, claimants must appeal each determination separately.

How do State Extended Benefits Impact your Unemployment?

This flow chart represents the current unemployment process. If you have already applied for benefits you may get UI and PUA. if your benefits are exhausted you may receive PEUC for 13 weeks and state extended benefits for an additional 13 weeks.

Monday, June 1, the Department of Labor notified the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) that the state triggered State Extended Benefits (EB). This program provides federal reimbursement to the state for up to an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits. The extension takes effect on May 31, 2020. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), passed as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), previously extended unemployment benefits for 13 weeks starting March 29, 2020. As a result, the first week Texans may be eligible for the additional EB is the week ending in July 4, 2020.

Statutes for EB date back to 1971 and are triggered during different periods of high unemployment. EB are available to workers who have exhausted regular unemployment insurance benefits during periods of high unemployment and are calculated per state. Texas’ unemployment rate is currently 12.8 percent, exceeding the five percent threshold to trigger the extension. Determination of “on” and “off” indicators can be found in TUCA 209.022.

Under traditional unemployment insurance, claimants can receive up to 26 weeks of benefits. The CARES Act provides PEUC benefits up to 13 weeks and provides an additional $600 per week to claimants until July 25, 2020. The CARES Act also expands the pool of claimants eligible to receive unemployment benefits to include self-employed, contract/gig workers, and those that were previously ineligible.
Since the week ending in March 13, 2020 TWC has taken 3 million initial claims and paid out $9.7 billion in unemployment benefits. For more information about unemployment benefits paid or to view an interactive map of claims, visit TWC’s UI by the Numbers page.

To apply for unemployment benefits or to request payment visit ui.texasworkforce.org. All claimants should keep their mailing and email addresses current in the unemployment benefits services system to prevent delays in communication. No action is required by the customer, if qualified TWC will automatically enroll the customer in EB.  The customer should simply continue filing their payment request timely if they are still unemployed.