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How to Apply for Expanded Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits were expanded in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill known as the CARES Act that was signed into law by President Trump on March 27.

The new CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package signed by President Trump on March 27, includes $260 billion to extend unemployment insurance. The bill extends unemployment benefits to anyone who is unemployed, partly employed, or cannot work for a wide variety of COVID-19-related reasons, including being self-employed, which includes workers who are not usually covered.

The bill also increases the amount of money unemployed workers will be paid. Unemployment usually covers roughly 40-45 percent of lost wages.

The bill grants an extra $600 per week on top of the state benefits, which vary by state. States can pay the full amount in one check or send separate checks, but checks will arrive in the same week.

Part-time workers not normally covered by state unemployment benefits will still receive the $600 weekly government payment. The bill also covers anyone who contracts COVID-19 or needs to care for a family member who has it.

People who cannot work because a child’s school or day care has shut down are also eligible as are people who have been advised by a doctor to self-quarantine.

The new relief package will not cover anyone who quits or wants to quit because they fear the risk of contracting the disease while continuing to work. Also not covered are people working from home or those who are receiving sick or family paid leave.

Payments are set to last 13 weeks BEYOND what each state already provides. For most states, that is 26 weeks. The total amount cannot exceed 39 weeks.

These benefits will be calculated as income and could interfere with other benefits such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.


For a tutorial on how to apply, visit the Texas Workforce Commission website. You can apply online at Unemployment Benefits Services. Create a log-in and start the process online for the easiest way. To see if you are eligible for the expanded program, check out the Texas Workforce Commission FAQ.

You can also apply by phone at 800-939-6631.

Have the following information on hand when you begin the process:

• Social Security number or Alien Registration number if you are not a U.S. citizen

• name, address, and phone number of the previous place of employment

• start and end dates of last employment

• number of hours worked per week and pay rates

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