Texas caught unprepared by unemployment crisis

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On Monday, the Texas Democratic Party issued a press release slamming Gov. Greg Abbott for mishandling the spike in unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Abbott continues to mismanage the crisis, this time for our working Texans and ensuring that we have the resources necessary to provide unemployed Texans the relief they need,” TDP Communications Director Abhi Rahman said in a statement. “Without immediate overhaul from Abbott, Texans will continue to go hungry, be unable to pay their rent or mortgage, and be stuck in busy signal limbo for their unemployment benefits. Texans need real leaders right now.” 

More than one million Texans have filed for unemployment over the past few weeks, more than all of 2019. Unemployment in Texas is now worse than it was at the height of the 2008 Great Recession. 

The crisis has been exacerbated by the Texas Workforce Commission’s antiquated system for claiming unemployment benefits, which has been plagued by busy lines and website crashes. The system relies on technology from the 1980s, making it unable to handle the flood of jobless claims and leaving Texans unable to get the help they need. One issue is that the system has to go offline at night, meaning that the TWC couldn’t process claims 24/7 even if they had the staff to. 

One laid-off worker and his son made hundreds of calls to the TWC’s hotline, with no response. He finally was able to complete the application after three weeks of being unemployed, and it will likely take at least another few weeks for the benefits to arrive. 

Under GOP leadership, Texas has failed for decades to upgrade its unemployment system into the 21st Century. And so far, the state government has not moved quickly or aggressively enough to overhaul the system in the midst of a major crisis.

Although the Texas GOP seems more concerned with the economy than with people’s lives, they haven’t even been able to get the economic response right. 

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

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