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Texans file for unemployment in record numbers

Weston Davis

As nonessential businesses endure social distancing protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic, employees continue to be let go and are forced to file for unemployment.

Over the past four weeks, more people in Texas filed for unemployment than all of 2019 combined. People are experiencing symptoms of the global pandemic even without contracting COVID-19.

After tentatively being furloughed, Aaron Peters, video editor and producer, filed for unemployment the first week of April, along with close to 2500 others in Lubbock. Last year during the same week, only 76 people applied.

“I’ve never filed for unemployment before, and I don’t know how that works,” Peters said, “but if that’s (being furloughed) going to keep me from getting my unemployment benefits, then that’s a no go”

For many, applying for unemployment has been a difficult process. Peters spent four days attempting to apply. The Texas Workforce Commission webpage continuously crashed due to the large amount of site traffic.

Since the volume of claims are so high, the TWC is encouraging people to apply during specific time frames when the applicant traffic is lower. This is an attempt to avoid the website errors Peters experienced.

Peters said he has not received a confirmation email, or anything with information about his application status. The uncertainty left him wondering when, and if, his lost wages will be replaced.

“When you submit, it gives you a notice that says it could take up to two to four weeks for them to accept your submission,” Peters said, “and as far as I know, I have not been accepted.”

Payment requests are completed only after you submit your information and receive the confirmation message, according to the Texas Workforce Commission website.

Fortunately, Peters has a large support group of family and friends offering their help during this trying time.

“I try and keep an optimistic view about a lot of things, it’s not going to help my situation just sitting around worrying about it,” said Peters.

But for those who don’t have a support group to fall back on, the weeks of uncertainty is daunting.

During a press conference on April 21st, Governor Greg Abbott addressed the number of unemployment claims that have received payments.

Governor Abbott said Texas has paid 80 percent of currently eligible unemployment claims. Abbott also said the remaining 20 percent will be addressed quickly with the increased staff, new strategies and longer hours the Texas Workforce Commission is using.

During the same press conference, Governor Greg Abbott introduced a new online job workforce solution. The site has nearly 500,000 job openings, according to the press release. The system was developed by the Texas Workforce Commission.

For more information about the new system, view this presentation by the governor.

For more of Texas Tech Public Media’s COVID-19 coverage visit:

Jonathan Seaborn is the Production Director for Texas Tech Public Television where he oversees the day to day production of programs like Inside Texas Tech and 24 Frames. He joined KTTZ in October of 2014 as a producer.
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