Thursday, January 8, 2015

I Qualified for Unemployment

I got two letters today in the snail mail:

The first was a Statement of Wages and Potential Benefit Amounts informing me that I did earn enough in my base period to receive unemployment benefits. The weekly benefit amount is $465 and I have 52 weeks to claim unemployment, or until I reach the maximum during my benefit year, $12090, which would be 26 weeks of payments.

There is a delay from when you apply for benefits to when you can request payments. My first eligible week will be the week ending 17 January. I can't request payment until 21 January. I'm really glad I'm not depending on this payment since I have savings. I'll be writing quite a bit about budgeting to live within the benefit amount.

Included was a copy of the Unemployment Benefits Handbook.

The second letter reiterated the minimum of five weekly contacts (I guess this is the same as "work search activities" ?) beginning on my effective date of 11 January.  It took some digging, but I finally found a list of acceptable work search activities in addition to what's printed on the back of the letter.

You must keep a work search log! Included in my paperwork was a paper copy of a search log. You can make copies, or print search logs from the website. I'm keeping a spreadsheet of my activities instead. The TWC can request this log at any time, so keep it up-to-date.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Part of the requirements to receive unemployment benefits in Texas is creating an account with, which bills itself as the "largest free job matching network in Texas." I had created an account back in December when I heard I might be getting laid off.

Once you create an account, you have to fill out all this job search-related so that you can be matched with jobs. You can also complete a State of Texas Application, which I think might make you visible to employers looking for candidates, but I'm not sure. At the moment I have 0 job matches, which seems odd.

I'll be checking with the site every few days. I wonder if they track that?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Calling the Texas Workforce Commission

I tried one more time this morning to complete the online form to apply for benefits and again received the message that TWC could best serve me by calling 1-866-790-1674.

Let me preface the following narrative: I don't like talking on the phone to customer service representatives. This is a weakness for me. I try to think happy thoughts and pump myself up, repeating "be nice!" as the phone rings...

I don't buy for a second that this token example of a CSR is who answered my call. I got a patronizing, but rather patient, woman who didn't want to mess around. I tried to explain why I was calling, and could we maybe try to figure out what went wrong with the online application? "I don't have access to that information." *sigh*

She more or less asked me all the questions I just filled out online. The best I could figure is that the address I entered for my previous employer didn't match the address they use for tax purposes.

38 minutes later, I was signed up and instructed to create an account with Work in Texas, which I'll cover next time. I should be getting confirmation of my application via snail mail. I am required to complete a minimum of 5 "weekly work search contacts" which I'll need to figure out.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Applying for Texas Unemployment Benefits Online

Unemployment benefits in Texas are managed by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and in true, government website fashion, it's complicated and problematic. To begin, visit the Basics of Unemployment page and start your journey.

Common Mistake:
Believing that you paid into an unemployment benefits account while you were working. This is not true. Employer taxes pay for unemployment benefits.

The first time I was laid off, I didn't apply for unemployment because I felt like I didn't really need it but I was also mistaken in believing I was taking from others who needed it more. Not so! Our employers pay into the system so the benefits part is largely funded by them, not the state coffers.

I had a hard time figuring out if I would qualify since I did not work all of 2014. TWC calculates your base period as "the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the effective date of your initial claim."

Since I filed in January 2015, TWC would be looking at the total wages I earned from October 2013 through September 2014. This confused the hell out of me, but what it comes down to is this:
Your total base period wages are at least 37 times your weekly benefit amount.
The maximum weekly benefit amount is $465, which is what anyone working a professional job will get, meaning you have to have earned at least $17205 in that base period to qualify.

Your effective date, used to calculate when you will qualify to start receiving benefits, is the Sunday of the week in which you apply. Sign up ASAP because you cannot receive benefits for prior weeks, even if you were already unemployed. Today is the first Sunday after I was laid off and I tried to apply using the TWC online application.

First, you have to create an account with TWC. Next, you log in and complete the lengthy, multi-screen application that gets all your personal data and work history information. (It's confusing enough that TWC has provided an equally lengthy tutorial.)  I got all the way to the end, only to be greeted with an error message stating that I needed to call them to apply. Grrr... I'll have to call tomorrow (Monday) which means my benefits date will be pushed to January 11.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year! You're unemployed...

The next few posts will share my thoughts and experiences navigating the Texas unemployment system, adjusting to vastly decreased income, and searching for a new job. I am in my thirties, been in the workforce post-college since 2000, and this is my second time to be laid off.

I did get a little bit of notice—December 19—that I was likely to be laid off at the end of the year when the contract I was working on for a client ended but I didn't get official word until December 31. I asked for my last day to be January 1 since I had missed the deadline to apply for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. I got my wish so at least I have healthcare until the end of the month.

In my next post I will explore applying for unemployment benefits in Texas.