Following a decision by Gov. Greg Abbott, federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits are ending Saturday — more than 70 days before the federal benefits actually expire.
That includes a weekly $300 unemployment supplement that continues to be relied on by hundreds of thousands of Texans.
Abbott announced that Texas would opt out of the federal benefits early to hasten the recovery of unemployment in the state.
On Thursday, Texas AFL-CIO and local Austin area arts and culture labor groups gathered outside the governor’s office to ask that he extend the unemployment insurance.
Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy said the premature end of the benefits would harm businesses that recycle those federal dollars, and would also force workers to accept low-wage, high-pressure jobs.
“Besides causing economic harm, Gov. Abbott’s decision insults workers by adopting the assumption of low-road businesses that federal benefits have kept workers home,” Levy said. “The overwhelming majority of Texans who lost jobs through no fault of their own want to work right now. In fact, the unemployment rate has declined dramatically while federal benefits are in effect.”
In Texas, the number of weekly unemployment claims as well as the state’s unemployment rate remain above pre-pandemic levels. Likewise, according to a Texas Workforce Commission report, Texas still has 400,000 jobs less than when compared to a pre-COVID period.
An analysis of Department of Labor data by The Century Foundation, a New York-based progressive think tank, estimates almost 800,000 Texans will be affected by the end of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation.
So far, at least 15 other states have joined Texas in opting out of federal benefits earlier than their Labor Day deadline. At least 10 are ending their pandemic benefits this weekend, a decision that will impact 2.5 million people across the nation, according to Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation.
“Even as state leaders impose economic harm on their residents and businesses lose paying customers, new evidence indicates that jobless workers in states maintaining unemployment benefits are searching for work more actively than in states that are stripping benefits,” Stettner said in a statement released with the recent unemployment insurance numbers. “With work search requirements and reemployment programs back in gear, workers on unemployment insurance are more likely to get help looking for a job.”