When do $400 unemployment benefits start in Texas?

Short answer: It's still up in the air, but the state is moving forward

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – Many unemployed Texans are wondering when the extra $400 weekly benefits will kick in after the previous benefit boost from the CARES Act expired July 25.

Update (August 20): Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the Texas Workforce Commission applied for additional unemployment benefit funds via Trump’s Lost Wage Assistance Executive Order. If that funding is granted, Texans currently receiving unemployment benefits will be provided with an additional $300 per week through the federal program.

“Texas is grateful to President Trump for making these funds available to individuals and asks that our federal partners quickly grant this request so that TWC can swiftly administer this funding to Texans,” Abbott said.

If approved, this order will give an extra $300 a week in additional unemployment payments to anyone who is eligible to receive more than $100 of certain state unemployment benefits, according to a press release from Abbott’s office.

If approved by the feds, eligible claimants should expect to receive the additional benefits on their first payment request on or after August 23, 2020. These funds will be backdated to the benefit week ending August 1, 2020. This article will be updated when the state application is approved or denied.

How did we get here?

President Trump signed the CARES Act into law on March 27, and part of the new law created a Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which gave states the option to provide an additional $600 a week to people on unemployment, according to the Department of Labor.

After those benefits ended last month, Trump signed an executive action creating the Lost Wages Program that circumvented Congress in an effort to provide financial relief to people who are still out of work amid the coronavirus pandemic. The new program would give people on unemployment an extra $400 a week but Trump’s order requires states to pay $100 of those benefits — a sticking point for cash-strapped state governments dealing with the pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Labor website states that the additional $400 per week would be given to claimants in most unemployment programs “starting with weeks of unemployment ending on or after Aug. 1, 2020, and ending Dec. 27, 2020 at the latest.”

Trump’s effort to bypass Congress is expected to face legal challenges, according to the Texas Tribune, because the money is expected to be diverted from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is meant for hurricane and other disaster relief.

According to Department of Labor officials, states are encouraged to provide the additional $100 in benefits either through allocations of the state’s Coronavirus Relief Funds provided by the CARES Act or through other state funding.

According to the Texas Tribune, Texas leaders including Abbott have not yet decided whether they plan to pay the $100 subsidiary of Trump’s executive action.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which provides an extra 13 weeks of benefits to people who exhaust traditional unemployment benefits, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provides up to 46 weeks of benefits to persons who are self-employed or who would not otherwise qualify for state benefits, will not expire until Dec. 26, according to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).

As of this publication, Texans are waiting to find out of the state will cover the additional expenses and Gov. Greg Abbott is hoping Congress will fund the benefits entirely, according to the Texas Tribune.

The TWC issued a statement to media outlets on Monday that said they are reviewing Trump’s order “and will provide additional information as soon as it becomes available.”

The Lost Wages Program could end earlier than Dec. 27 if FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund decreases to $25 billion or if legislation is enacted that provides federal monetary compensation to unemployed individuals as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic, according to officials with the Department of Labor.

About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.