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Texas unemployment benefits will soon require work search proof

Starting July 6, anyone receiving unemployment payments will be required to look for work.

AUSTIN, Texas —

At least 1.6 million people are still out of work. And, starting July 6, those unemployed will be required to search for work to get unemployment benefits.

The Texas Workforce Commission gave this three-week period to make sure everyone gets notified. For most Texans, TWC will require three job searches a week.

“Counties that have set their work search requirement to less than three may keep that number intact. As the economic reopening progresses, local workforce boards will evaluate their specific economic conditions and will advise the executive director on the need to increase or decrease their respective requirement,” said Clay Cole, UI division director for Texas Workforce Commission, during the June 16 board meeting.

The state wants you to use WorkInTexas.com for your search. The site has about 550,000 job openings listed. It’s 1:3 openings per unemployed persons, and not everyone qualifies for each opening. 

However, a “work search” includes several activities, such as signing up with an employment agency, attending a job fair and browsing jobs online. You can also go to your local workforce solutions to get training for a new career.

TWC offers a spreadsheet to help document the search.

Exemption from Work Search Requirements

The TWC website shows, "We will notify you if you are exempt from any work search requirements. To qualify for an exemption, you must meet one of the following criteria and have our approval:

  • Be on a temporary layoff with a definite return-to-work date
  • Be an active member in good standing of a union with a non-discriminatory hiring hall
  • Be in a TWC-approved training program that includes work search exemption
  • Be in Trade Act training
  • Be in a Shared-Work program"

The website also shows to be eligible for benefits, you must:

  • Register for work search in the state where you reside
  • Search for work
  • Document your work search activities
  • Apply for and accept suitable full-time work

People directly impacted by COVID-19 will still be required to search for work, but can turn down a job if they meet one of the following exceptions:

  1. At high risk – People 65 years or older, and/or people with medical issues as listed by the Texas Department of Health Services.
  2. Household member at high risk – People 65 years or older are at a higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19 as listed by the Texas Department of Health Services.
  3. Diagnosed with COVID-19 by a source authorized by the State of Texas and is not recovered. 
  4. Family member with COVID-19 confirmed by a source authorized by the State of Texas and is not recovered and 14 days have not yet passed.
  5. Currently in 14-day quarantine due to close contact exposure to COVID-19.
  6. Child’s school or daycare closed, and no alternatives are available.

“There are people that may try to take advantage of that,” said Ed Serna, TWC executive director, in May.

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“If you kept collecting unemployment insurance benefits when you had the opportunity to go back to work, technically that immediately becomes a fraudulent situation,” said Serna.

More than 30 people were prosecuted and sentenced for unemployment benefits fraud last year. Plus, another 18 people were indicted and arrested for felony theft of unemployment benefits. Their cases were dismissed in an exchange for full restitution owed.

The Department of Labor shows TWC collected 86% of unemployment overpayments in the last three years. The state works with the U.S. Department of the Treasury to take overpayments out of tax refunds if someone refuses to pay.

“Our investigators are pretty resilient and pretty dogged,” said Serna.

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