SAN ANTONIO – Carl McKinney lost his job laying water pipes in March 2020 as the pandemic ramped up in San Antonio.
Since then, the extra unemployment assistance he’s received from the federal government, on top of the $194 he gets weekly from the state, has helped him get by.
“It’s been helpful,” McKinney said. “You know what I mean? Put money in my pocket -- you know what I’m saying? Pay a little bills every now and then.”
The money was good enough that McKinney says he didn’t really look for work, though he knew he’d make more money with a job. He also just had a daughter born recently and wanted to spend time with her.
But it was also his child’s birth that he says made him want to get back on his feet and do something with his time. Then, on Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that, effective June 26, the state will withdraw from the program that provides unemployed Texans with an extra $300 per week, providing more motivation.
Without that extra $300 each week, McKinney said he won’t be able to make ends meet. Now, he’s looking to get training that will help him find a skilled job, like welding or being an electrician, and is looking forward to getting back to work.
“I want to be doing something with my time,” he said.
Abbott’s move to remove Texas from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program appears to be about pushing people like McKinney back into the workforce. A news release from Abbott’s office Monday claims that there are about as many open jobs as Texans collecting unemployment.
“According to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), nearly 45 percent of posted jobs offer wages greater than $15.50 per hour. Approximately 76 percent pay more than $11.50 per hour. Only 2 percent of posted jobs pay around the minimum wage,” the release reads.
“At this stage of opening the state 100 percent, the focus must be on helping unemployed Texans connect with the more than a million job openings, rather than paying unemployment benefits to remain off the employment rolls.”
Adrian Lopez, the CEO of Workforce Solutions Alamo -- the local workforce board that works to connect employers and job seekers in 13 counties -- says they have seen employers raise wages and offer bonuses as incentives to attract workers.
However, he says, it’s not just an issue of pay that might be keeping unemployed Texans from trying to reenter the workforce. Other issues, such as access to child care, are also taken into consideration.
“If you go back to work and you can’t have -- or a barrier for employment is child care or lack of child care, that’s a real decision that people are making,” Lopez said.
Looking for work at WSA’s Datapoint center on Monday, John Anthony Martinez said he has been unemployed since April when work slowed down. He hasn’t seen any of the extra federal benefits so far, he said, and he was already looking for a new job before Abbott’s announcement on Monday.
Still, he doesn’t like the governor’s maneuver.
“I don’t think it would be an incentive to want to work if you were to take that (the supplemental federal money) away. I think it’s just more of a slap in the face,” he said.