Updated on 04/01/2020 at 11:30am
Coronavirus Relief Bill: The CARES Act
If you have lost wages or have reduced hours due to COVID-19, you might be eligible for unemployment benefits. Self-employed people, independent contractors, and part-time workers are typically not eligible for general unemployment benefits funded by the state. However, under the CARES Act which passed on March 27, 2020, most self-employed individuals, independent contractors and gig workers (also known as 'non-traditional workers') are now be eligible for unemployment benefits via Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
Visit Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) for more information and to start the application process. TWC offers online tutorials on how to apply for Unemployment Benefits. To reach the TWC call center, call 800-939-6631.
Please note: TWC states it can take at least 4 weeks to process your claim and make a determination.
TWC is informing non-traditional applicants (self-employed, contractors, gig workers) that they will initially be denied for general unemployment benefits. However, there is no need to reapply. TWC will automatically review your application for PUA eligibility. Continue to check your mail and TWC online account for updates.
The base weekly benefit amount for 'non-traditional workers' is $207 + the additional $600/week of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).
If you received an initial denial of general unemployment benefits, your claim will still be reviewed for PUA eligibility - TWC will do this automatically. View the 'Request Payment' option on the left side menu and continue to request payment every two weeks, even if you are still waiting for a final determination.
While you're waiting for a determination from TWC, you should continue to request payment every 2 weeks on your designated filing/request day. Don't wait for TWC to notify you of eligibility! If you miss your payment request window, this could delay when you receive payment. Be sure to check your TWC account regularly for any message or required actions in your "Correspondence Inbox".
Eligibility for Additional $600
In addition to base unemployment benefits, all applicants affected by COVID-19 should be eligible to receive an additional $600 per week (FPUC) under the CARES Act. These payments are for weeks between April 4th - July 25th. Once your claim is approved, TWC will issue retroactive payments for the weeks you were eligible.
Eligibility for Increased Base Payment
Per TWC, the weekly base payment for non-traditional workers is $207 in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). For individuals who made more than $20,800 in 2019 - you may be eligible for an increased weekly base payment. Once approved for PUA benefits, you should submit IRS Form 1040 and Schedules C, F, or SE as proof to be considered for the increase. Have questions about these forms? Contact our friends at Foundation Communities for assistance.
Returning to Work
If your employer is reopening and you have been asked to return to work, you may be exempt from returning if you have an eligible reason. Talk with your employer about why you are unable to return to work and see if they are able to make accommodations.
When you request your next payment from TWC, indicate that you were offered work and refused - your employer will report this information as well. TWC will investigate your case and contact both you and your employer. You will continue to receive payments while the investigation takes place.
Looking for Work?
Staggered TWC Access Times
TWC has implemented staggered access to their call center and website to minimize volume. Texans are asked to use their area code to find their designated call and access times.
Most adults will get a $1,200, one-time payment. For each child age 16 or under, the payment will be an additional $500. You are ineligible for a payment if someone claims you as a dependent, even if you are an adult. Click here for a stimulus check calculator from the Washington Post to estimate how much you will receive.
Check the status of your stimulus check with the IRS Get My Payment Tool
The IRS will use the adjusted gross income from your 2019 tax return to determine the amount of assistance you will receive. If you have not filed your 2019 tax return yet - now due July 15th - then the IRS will use your adjusted gross income from your 2018 return. Per the IRS, “those without 2018 tax filings on record could potentially affect mailings of stimulus checks.” If you haven't filed a return for 2018 or 2019, filing for 2019 will be the fastest way to receive your stimulus check. Foundation Communities is now offering FREE virtual tax prep services until May 8th - visit ProsperTaxHelp.org to get started.
For those who are not required to file a tax return, see information from the IRS regarding eligibility and next steps.
Most people should expect to receive their payment within three weeks - around the end of April. There is no need to apply for payment - the IRS will use your bank account information on file and will transfer the money via direct deposit.
If you are paying federal student loans, the government has now waived payments and interest until September 30, 2020. Eligible loans are federal, direct loans, taken out within the past 10 years. You should receive a notice regarding the status of your federal loan(s) and can contact the loan servicer with questions.
Per the legislation, this 6-month payment suspension will not affect your participation in a loan forgiveness or rehabilitation program. However, pay close attention to your loan account for fees at the end of the 6-month suspension - this should not occur.