90 calls in single day, 6 weeks of trying, still no benefits: One Texan’s experience with unemployment office

Records show state is still verifying Michael Ibarra’s unemployment claim 6 weeks after he filed for benefits

90 calls in single day, 6 weeks of trying, still no benefits: One Texan's experience with unemployment office

SAN ANTONIO – Determined to reach a person on the other end of the phone, Michael Ibarra recently called the Texas Workforce Commission 90 times in a single day to figure out why he still hasn’t received unemployment benefits.

But Ibarra said those calls, like the countless others he’s made the past six weeks, ended with him reaching an automated phone message and then a busy signal.

“Makes me feel like I’ve done something wrong. And with bills coming up next month and with rent due at the end of the week, it’s kind of hard. It’s stressful for me right now,” said Ibarra.

Ibarra’s travails through unemployment started in mid-March when he was laid off from his job at a shoe boutique at the Shops at La Cantera.

Ibarra said he followed all the necessary steps to collect state unemployment benefits, including submitting an application online and receiving a notification indicating what he would receive.

Six weeks later, Ibarra has yet to receive a single payment.

Records shared with us show that the commission is still reviewing Ibarra’s claim to determine if he is eligible to receive benefits.

“The necessities is what I need and I’d like them to get back to me. Let me know what I’ve done or what I can do to get this resolved,” said Ibarra.

Over 1.3 million million Texans have become unemployed since mid-March, with hundreds of thousands of people filing new claims each week.

The influx of claims has been taxing on the agency’s ability to answer calls and assist in filing claims.

Texas is running out of money to pay unemployment benefits. People will still get paid, but businesses may see tax hikes as a result.

Reached for comment Monday, a TWC spokeswoman released the following statement:

I do know that there is a waiting period but if you have been told you are eligible you will receive benefits. It takes anywhere up to 21 days and beyond. He does not need to do anything at this time but be patient.

Ibarra said with his rent due at the end of the week, it is becoming more difficult to be patient.


About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy-nominated photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.