Texas reinstates work search requirements for jobless benefits; why El Pasoans don’t have to worry yet
EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) — El Paso’s unemployment rate has improved since this spring, but it’s still more than double what it was before the pandemic began. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that preliminary data shows El Paso’s unemployment rate in September was 8.7%. In February, it was 3.8%. Months into the pandemic, some are starting to run out of critical unemployment benefits.
“It was so hard to scrap money to not be able to go anywhere, you know, go grocery shopping,” said Jade Nguyen, who lost her job at a movie theater at the start of the pandemic. That theater reopened in September, but the business shut its doors again late last month.
“I was thinking about what I was going to do in terms of bills,” Nguyen said. “We closed right before rent’s due.”
Nguyen received unemployment benefits from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), but months into the pandemic, she has exhausted her unemployment benefits. She is now trying to reapply.
“The waiting period is just anxious,” she said.
The commission says benefits are not meant to be permanent, but there are options for those whose benefits run out on a case-by-case basis.
“We recognize that a lot of people will come into that situation, but if they’re proactive and look for opportunities as soon as they can, that will put them in a better position,” said James Bernsen, Deputy Director of Communications with the Texas Workforce Commission.
This week, the TWC reinstated its work search requirement, a federal requirement in which those seeking benefits must show they’re looking for jobs or taking advantage of select resources and trainings.
“It was suspended in March at the height of the pandemic and the closures and it made sense at the time because it was impossible to search for work when businesses had no idea of how long they would be closed,” Bernsen said.
Counties are able to adjust the definition of that requirement. As of November 6, there was no job search requirement set for El Paso.
“A lot of people may be under the assumption that there are so many closures out there that there just aren’t jobs out there and that is not the case,” Bernsen said.
Nguyen said it has not always been easy.
“I’m also a full-time student as well, so having to focus on 16 hours of school and trying to figure out where my money is going to come from has been very stressful,” she said. “A lot of us feel, you know, we’re feeling behind and we feel like everything is just kind of falling apart.”
The state’s job bank had more than 763,000 job postings for jobs across Texas as of Thursday. The website also includes resources for job seekers and notices of virtual job fairs.
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