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Dallas Morning News: Unemployed Texans will have to resume proving work searches beginning in November

October 13, 2020

AUSTIN -- The Texas Workforce Commission on Tuesday voted to reinstate work search requirements for people who are receiving unemployment insurance benefits from the state.

The federally mandated requirements were suspended in March after COVID-19 hammered the Texas economy. But citing improving jobs numbers, the three-member commission said the requirements would return in November.

“The COVID-19 crisis has been difficult for everyone, creating new challenges for workers, employers and their families,” Ed Serna, the commission’s executive director said in a statement. “Let me be clear: we are not over it. But we’re seeing employment opportunities begin to bounce back in Texas as our economy restarts. There are opportunities out there and getting Texans back to work and businesses up and running again will create even more.”

Worker advocates said reinstating the work search requirement “will only further strain the system that is still dealing with demand beyond its capacity.”

“If the commission believes they have the available resources to handle reinstating this requirement, they should instead consider using it to reach the untold number Texans who sought benefits but fell through the cracks of our overburdened system," Jonathan Lewis a senior policy analyst for the Austin-based think tank, Every Texan, said in a statement. "The more eligible Texans receiving these benefits, the better off Texas businesses and our economy will be as we begin to recover; work search will only lead to more out of work Texans without this critical financial benefit.”

Congressman Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat from Austin, was also critical of the decision.

“Families are caught in a two-pronged Republican attack: make it harder to vote and nearly impossible to get needed relief from a pandemic worsened by a White House and Governor’s Mansion leadership vacuum,” he said in a statement. “Those struggling through no fault of their own need real help now, not politically-driven red tape.”

Texans on unemployment will be required to prove they are searching for jobs beginning Nov. 1. Those checks will be included in the payment requests unemployed Texans file with the state every two weeks.

Out-of-work Texans in most parts of the state will be required to do three work searches per week, but some counties may have less.

Furloughed workers who will return to their jobs within 12 weeks of their work stoppage are exempt from the work search requirement, the commission said in a news release.

To meet the requirement, unemployed workers can sign up for the state’s work search website www.WorkInTexas.com or registering as a job-seeker at a public workforce office in the state. They can also fill out applications, complete interviews or make-in person visits to would-be employers or stopping by at networking events.

Since the pandemic hit Texas in March, the state has received 5.3 million unemployment applications. The latest numbers show the state still paying out insurance benefits to 1.6 million people.

The state has sought to reinstate work search requirements since May, which was met by fierce resistance from worker advocates who said that would make it even more difficult for down-on-their-luck Texans to stay afloat in the middle of a pandemic.

In June, with coronavirus cases increasing again, the agency postponed its decision to bring back the work search requirement.