Filing for unemployment benefits: Who qualifies

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MCALLEN – Thousands of Texans are filing unemployment claims, but many wonder if their loss of work disqualifies them for financial assistance.

In the last month alone, more than 1.1 million Texans filed for unemployment benefits, according to the Texas Workforce Commission, or TWC.

Those who have been terminated or seen a reduction to their work schedule can be eligible for benefits. Others are seeing more unique forms of unemployment.

Some employers are asking their employees to stay home if they were exposed to the virus. The Workforce Commission says employees can "use available paid medical leave under whatever paid leave policy the company has." People are not considered unemployed if they are out on medical leave, but if they are on unpaid medical leave, they could also be unemployed if they are out long enough to satisfy the test for either partial or total unemployment. TWC has a specific definition.

Others may find a workplace environment not adhering to social distancing or cleaning practice too unacceptable to stay. That can lead some to quit. Employees should report non-compliance to local authorities who can enforce the rules. If that doesn't help, the police or county law enforcement can also be contacted.

TWC cannot investigate simple workplace safety complaints or sanction businesses. In a statement, they said:

"The federal agency OSHA takes complaints regarding unsafe working conditions, but the closest equivalent to OSHA in Texas, the OSHCON department at TDI’s Workers’ Compensation Division, has no authority to sanction employers for workplace safety violations – they only offer free inspections and consultations to help employers avoid federal agency sanctions. TWC’s Civil Rights Division might get involved if minority employees are required to work under more dangerous conditions than non-minorities, but CRD has no authority to investigate straightforward workplace safety complaints."

If an employee has lost their job after willing leaving due to the coronavirus concerns, they could qualify for assistance. They could be eligible under the “type of separation” which lists COVID-19 as an option. Ultimately, it's on a case-by-case basis.

After applying for unemployment benefits, Workforce Solutions will be able to help find a new job. Mike Gonzalez, Workforce Solutions communications specialist, said, "All of our Workforce Solutions reps are working right now pretty much on this website so that you can reach out and get the assistance that you need. It's not just going to be a bot that redirects you to another website or another page. You will be in contact with a Workforce Solutions representative."

They also have a page on Facebook called RGV Operation Get Hired where they post jobs daily.


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