Texans sue to stop state from exiting federal program paying extra $300 in unemployment

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The Dallas Morning News 25 June, 2021 - 06:26pm 27 views

Is unemployment ending in Texas?

As of June 26, 2021, the State of Texas has ended its participation in the federal pandemic unemployment benefit programs. As a result, the final benefit week that the Texas Workforce Commission ( TWC ) paid federal pandemic unemployment benefits under the American Rescue Plan was the benefit week ending June 26, 2021. texas.govFederal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

1:28 PM on Jun 25, 2021 CDT

The group’s bid for a temporary restraining order was shut down Friday afternoon. David Sibley, the attorney working with the Facebook groups, said in an email that his clients plan to continue their legal fight.

Travis County District Judge Dustin Howell did not provide reasons for ruling against a temporary halt, Sibley said.

Last month, Abbott said the state was ending its participation in the enhanced benefits as of Saturday, June 26, two months before the added payments are to end nationally.

The lawsuit, filed in Travis County, alleges that the Texas constitution does not give Abbott the authority to make this decision alone, but instead requires a determination by the Texas Workforce Commission. TWC is the state agency that processes unemployment claims and pays out benefits.

Abbott “exceeded his power” in opting out of the program, according to the lawsuit.

Both the TWC and Abbott’s office did not respond to requests for comments.

The two groups, Texas Unemployment Updates and Unemployment Petition and Peaceful Protest, contain over 30,000 members combined.

The decision to halt the program followed increasing pressure from the Texas Association of Business and more than three dozen other business groups to end the extra payments, arguing that they were “disincentivizing” Texans from seeking employment.

Texas’s unemployment rate is 6.7 percent as of May 21, a fall from 6.9 percent in April. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 960,000 Texans were unemployed as of March.

Texas is among 26 states that opted to end enhanced payments early. Lawsuits also have been filed in Maryland and Indiana. The Florida Phoenix reported this week that advocates also are considering legal action against the Florida governor if his decision is not reversed.

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Roughly half a million Texans are losing the federal financial unemployment benefits that kept many afloat through COVID-19.

And as people start to go out more and resume pre-pandemic activities, businesses are looking to hire. Many storefronts in the Bishop Arts District in Dallas are advertising the same need: help wanted.   

Luis Cacares, the general manager of Coco’s Fire & Ice , is looking to fill 10 positions.

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“We’re going about to hit our busiest season, so we want to make sure we’re prepared and we have the right staff,” Cacares said.

The Texas Workforce Commission will pay its final federal pandemic unemployment benefits for several programs the week ending Saturday. Gov. Greg Abbott in May opted out of further federal compensation related to the pandemic.

“We have three people who are looking to have interviews Monday. Two of them actually mentioned that that their benefits are up, so they’re looking to have a job now,” Cacares said.

Justin Sokul, assistant manager of the home goods store Home on Bishop, said it has been hard finding and keeping employees.  

“We’ve hired and they’re already gone, and we’ve put ads on Facebook and Instagram all the time,” he said.

Enrique Rodriguez, center manager for Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas, estimated that around 50,000 people in Dallas County will be affected by the changes.  

Workforce Solutions Greater Dallas has increased its own staff size to help more job seekers as pandemic benefits wind down.   

There is some encouragement for people who’ve spent the last year working from home, or teaching their kids — these are all transferrable skills.  

“You survived the time we just had. People forget that they’ve got survival skills. You are still here, in spite of everything,” Rodriguez said.   

Workforce Solutions provides help with job searches and training programs free of charge. More information about getting assistance for the job hunt is available on their website.

More information about jobs listed on WorkinTexas.org can be found on its website.

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