Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
The health and safety of our customers, staff, employers, partners, and area families is of utmost importance to us. We are closely monitoring news reports and guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), public health officials, and government agencies to stay informed and responsive to a rapidly developing situation. We are taking the following steps in response to the spread of COVID-19:
- Providing guidance to staff on recommended health and safety practices.
- Providing information to job seekers, employers, early childhood programs and parents regarding recommended health and safety practices.
- Arranging for environmental cleaning at all locations including common and meeting areas.
- Eliminating all in-person delivery of services until further notice.
- Serving customers virtually via web chat, phone, online tools and services, Facebook Live sessions, and more.
As new information is released, we will continue to make adjustments and stay in close communication with staff and customers.
Work Search Reinstatement Paused
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has announced that the return of work search requirements for Unemployment Insurance (UI) in Texas, has been delayed due to the resurgence of COVID-19 cases and will no longer go into effect on July 6th. Work search reinstatement will be evaluated again later in July.
- View the full announcement
Guidance for Continued Eligibility
Each UI benefits case is currently evaluated on an individual basis. However, because of the COVID-19 emergency, the following are reasons benefits would be granted if the individual refused suitable work.
- At High Risk – People 65 years or older 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 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 alternatives are available.
Any other situation will be subject to a case by case review by the Texas Workforce Commission based on individual circumstances.
Guidance for Self-Employed, Contract, & Gig Workers
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) advises self-employed, contract and gig workers who have lost work due to the COVID-19 pandemic to apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) using Unemployment Benefits Services (UBS).
During the application process, when UBS asks non-traditional workers the reason for their job separation, they should select “reduced hours.” If their reduced hours are a result of COVID-19, they should also select “COVID-19” under the disaster impact section. The system will then display questions they need to answer to complete their claim.
After completion, the system will first review the claim for regular unemployment insurance eligibility, which will result in a denial for regular unemployment benefits only. Subsequently, TWC will automatically enroll these applicants in PUA. The initial denial for unemployment insurance may cause confusion but does not affect the PUA eligibility.
Those who have already submitted claims should not reapply. They should continue to request benefit payment every two weeks while TWC enrolls them in PUA.
Applicants do not need to call TWC. Non-traditional applicants who are eligible will qualify for a base weekly benefit amount of $207, plus the additional $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) payment per week.
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is reminding all unemployment claimants and unemployed workers to practice caution when providing people with personally identifiable information. Unfortunately, in situations such as the one we are experiencing because of COVID-19, there can be unemployment insurance scams and fraudulent phone calls.
Below are some indications that you may be a victim of an attempted scam by someone pretending to be a TWC Specialist:
- The individual asks for a credit card number.
- The individual says there is a fee for processing the claim.
- The individual asks for more than the last four digits of your bank account and routing number.
When you are contacted by a legitimate TWC Specialist they will need to confirm your identity and will ask for your Social Security Number and date of birth. However, a TWC Specialist will never ask for a credit card number or state that there is any kind of fee associated with your claim. There is no fee for filing for UI and a TWC Specialist cannot change banking information, so the full number is unnecessary.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) encourages those who have not yet applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) as a result of COVID-19 to apply now. Individuals affected by COVID-19 can apply for PUA benefits online through Unemployment Benefit Services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or by calling a TWC Tele-Center any day between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. at 800-939-6631.When applying, individuals affected by the pandemic should indicate that as the reason they lost their job.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provides up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits for persons impacted by COVID-19 and covers individuals who are self-employed, who otherwise would not qualify for regular unemployment compensation, or who have exhausted state benefits.
If you have already applied for traditional UI benefits, you do not need to take any further action to quality for PUA. Do not apply for benefits again. TWC will review eligibility for PUA for all existing applicants automatically and notify claimants by mail or electronic correspondence of their eligibility.
If you have to close your business either temporarily or permanently and need to lay off employees, you may be able to submit a mass claim for unemployment benefits on their behalf. The Mass Claims program streamlines the unemployment benefit claims process for employers faced with either temporary or permanent layoffs. Employers can submit basic worker information on behalf of their employees to initiate claims for unemployment benefits. You can submit a mass claim request on Employer Benefits Services (EBS) 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If your business has slowed down due to COVID-19 and you need to reduce employee working hours, you may be able to avoid laying off workers by submitting a Shared Work Plan. Apply by logging on to Employer Benefits Services (EBS) and submit your Shared Work Plan online. EBS online is fast, easy, secure, and available 24/7/365.
Conducting Job Interviews During COVID-19
In light of COVID-19, here are some tips and best practices for interviewing job candidates remotely.
Teleconference or Video Conference
Teleconference and video conference are acceptable interview options. In conducting such interviews, The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) and LinkedIn Learning recommend that hiring managers:
Treat teleconference and video conference interviews with the same seriousness as in-person interviews. Know the job description, the candidate’s resume and specific questions to ask. Choose a quiet, well-lit room for interviews. Make sure all parties have the correct interview time on their calendar. On the day of the interview, have your interview questions, notes and files available in an orderly fashion so there’s no need to shuffle around while you’re interviewing the applicant. Being unprepared can create awkward pauses.
Give candidates advance notice that interviews will be conducted virtually, and make sure your team is on the same page. Underscore that this is being done to protect their health (and yours). Once your candidates know their interviews will be held virtually — and why — reach out and give them the details of their interviews, just as you would if the interview was taking place onsite. Useful information to share includes:
- Tips on how to access videoconferencing technology. Let the candidate know how to access any necessary technology and whether software needs to be downloaded.
- Details of their interview start and end times and the names and titles of each person they will meet.
- Finally, as an added precaution, give them a backup phone number to reach you in case there is a glitch or the technology gets wonky. Ask them to share the same with you.
Check Your Tech
Double-check the technology you will be using and ask the candidate to do the same. To minimize technical hiccups, do a test run before your interviews. Remember that even if you have held phone or video interviews from work, it is going to be different holding them from your home office or kitchen. Make sure your signal strength is adequate and the camera and microphone both work and are set up so the candidate can easily see and hear you.
TWC Child Care Attendance: Reinstating Absence Policies on July 20th
On June 16, 2020, the Texas Workforce Commission took action to reinstate requirements for the parents of children receiving Child Care Services (CCS) to record their child’s daily attendance, which will become effective July 20, 2020. Children are generally allowed 40 unexplained absences during a year. Parents have not been required to record their attendance since mid-March, when the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was first being felt across the state. At that time, only essential worker parents were able to use regulated child care. And, many child care providers were restricting parent access within child care operations. TWC did not want to penalize parents who were unable to take their children to child care, based on the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
Effective July 20, 2020, subsidy children’s absences will be reset to 0, and all parents will be required to record their children’s attendance using the state’s child care automated attendance system. Absences will begin to count again and child care can end once the 40 unexplained absences limit is reached for a child.
Absences for any families who have been asked to self-isolate or quarantine based on instructions from a medical professional or other state/local authority will not count as an unexplained absence. Absences related to a child care provider’s involuntary closure per an order by a health authority will also not count as unexplained.
What Providers Need to Do:
- Make the swipe card machine available to parents to record attendance (or your phone if you are a home-based program).
- Let families know they must record attendance and if their child has a COVID-related absence, they should notify their local CCS office.
- If you are ordered to close by a state or local health authority due to COVID, notify your Local Board/CCS offices about your status.
What Parents Need to Do:
- Locate your attendance card and start using it to record your child’s attendance; you must only swipe once per day (swipe “in”).
- If you cannot locate your card, contact your local CCS office as soon as possible to request a replacement card.
- If a health professional or local health authority instructs you and/or your children to quarantine or self-isolate due to COVID, notify your local CCS office.
- If you do not need care right now or do not plan to take your child to care, contact your local CCS office to discuss your options.
- If your child care program is unable to provide services to your child because they do not have space available, contact your local CCS office to discuss your options.
Quick Links on COVID-19
- Guidance for Businesses & Employers
- Guidance for School & Child Care Settings
- Guidance to Protect Yourself & Your Family
- Guidance & Support for Small Businesses
- Guidance for Individuals with Disabilities
- Centers for Disease Control & Prevention
- Texas Health & Human Services
- Texas Education Agency Info for Districts
- World Health Organization (WHO) Q&A
- FAQ Handout (Updated: 3/13/2020) YouTube Video
- Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities YouTube Channel
- Texas Education Agency Resources for Students with Disabilities
- Checklist for Companies with Remote Workers
- Q&A from the Office of the Commissioner Representing Employers
- Questions About Unemployment Insurance & COVID-19
- Texas Dept. of Agriculture COVID-19 Resource Guide
- Texas Workforce Commission Resources for Employers
- Texas Workforce Commission Resources for Small Businesses Linked In Social Network
- Tips for Conducting Virtual Interviews
- Unemployment Benefit Claim Overview (Employers)
Free Training Opportunity
Ranger College COVID-19 Displaced Worker/Student Scholarship Program
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Ranger College has announced a new scholarship program designed to assist displaced workers and students who have been adversely impacted by the pandemic. The scholarship covers tuition, fees, and course materials for one approved class in either the May, Summer A, or Summer B semesters. This is an opportunity for those who have lost their jobs or considered job training for better employment.