AUSTIN, Texas — What happened to Troy Jordan happened to a lot of you.
“I borrowed money from my family … had taken everything I had pretty much in savings to get by. I have used credit cards,” said Jordan.
He’s out of work after being laid off last year. Jordan received unemployment benefits until mid-February when they were exhausted.
“It's been difficult,” said Jordan.
Then, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a new round of unemployment payments. Jordan qualified for an extension of benefits under PEUC. It would mean 13 more weeks of unemployment pay.
Because of the CARES Act, he would receive an additional $600 weekly payment.
“If your benefits have already expired, we're going to be going to make sure that you get what you need,” said Ed Serna, Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) executive director, in May.
Serna said the unemployment surge caught everyone off guard. TWC expanded call centers to handle the claims.
For the first time, people who wouldn’t normally qualify for unemployment were able to receive benefits. It added even more callers. Plus, people like Jordan would get an extension. So, anyone still out of work with benefits exhausted may qualify.
“It was like it was my full-time job to call,” said Jordan.
Jordan said the online portal directed him to “call” TWC. He said he tried for more than a month. On May 2, Jordan said he got through.
After a three-hour hold and another transfer, he thought everything would be fine. Then, three weeks passed and no payment. At the end of May, Jordan received a notice to file again. After two weeks and no pay, Jordan reached out to us.
The state won’t release private information, but TWC answered general questions.
“Persons that have exhausted their regular unemployment insurance benefits that are eligible for PEUC could receive benefits beginning the week ending April 4,” said TWC spokesman Cisco Gamez.
Gamez said the average claim-to-check time is 21 days.
He wouldn’t give current call wait times but said, “The amount of time someone is on the phone waiting to speak with a TWC representative will vary. I would recommend calling early mornings, especially on weekends and towards the end of the day.”
On Facebook, Gamez also suggested seeking virtual assistance.
“Larry, the chatbot, it has helped over 1 million people and has answered over 4 million questions in the last few months,” said Gamez.
Since February, Jordan got evicted and at least one bill was sent to collections.
“I'm just hoping to get caught up, back to normal and actually have some breathing room,” said Jordan.
It may happen soon. After our interview, Jordan got a call from a TWC worker. He said his payment will come within a couple days and his benefits will backdate to March 29.
The TWC continues to make changes to handle the volume of calls. It has four call centers, with one now dedicated to calling people with flags on their account.
“Customers are being called back for all types of inquiries. However, we try to focus on those customers that need unemployment claims or something's holding their payments back,” said Gamez on Facebook.
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