Denied unemployment in March? Here's why you need to reapply

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- If you were denied Texas unemployment benefits in March, the agency wants you to apply again

The coronavirus outbreak has caused millions to lose their job. To get help, hundreds of thousands of people in Texas, including Felicia Willis, applied for unemployment.

"I've not suffered from high blood pressure, or anything in the past, but I'm sure the headaches, and the things that I'm getting now are definitely from the stress," Willis explained on Monday.

Willis still doesn't know if she qualifies for unemployment, but the agency did notify others.

If you applied last month, and were denied, the Texas Workforce Commission wants you to apply again.

"It's possible that if people apply in March and didn't qualify, they may now qualify because we're looking at a different set of past wages," explained Texas Workforce Commission spokesperson Cisco Gamez.

Here's what changed: The agency looks at your past wages to determine eligibility. The dates they look at now are different.

If you applied before Sunday, April 5, the Texas Workforce Commission looked at past wages between October 2018 and September 2019.

Starting this week, the agency looks at what you made between January 2019 and December 2019. If you're self-employed, or a contracted employee and got denied, you don't have to apply again, but you might be hearing from the agency soon.

"They'll be notified either electronically, or by mail that they'll be receiving benefits, and they will," Gamez said.

As the agency is telling people to re-apply, some say they still can't even apply in the first place. Willis said for two weeks, she's called the agency.

"One day, I called 100 times before I just quit, and one day I said, 'Let me put a little bit more into it' and I called 672 times," Willis said.

Texas Workforce Commission is trying to fix its phone system.

Right now, it's overwhelmed. The previous record for calls in a day is 60,000. On some days, its receiving more than 1.5 million calls in a day.

Officials said they've hired 550 workers to address the issue.

"We are adding staff," Gamez explained. "We are adding vendors. It's just going to take some time. I'm certainly not saying don't call. We want them to call. We want to help them."

There are issues with the website, too. If you're having problems, the agency said the best time to apply is from 1:00 a.m. until 6:00 a.m.

Also, applying online can get you benefits quicker. Recently, the agency received 70,000 applications in one day, whereas the call center can only handle about 3,000 in a day.

Texas Workforce Commission is also exploring the idea of not requiring people to call for issues with their pin or social security number.

"We are looking at other options," Gamez explained. "We're looking at various scenarios to see ways we can do this. We also have to be careful with people's secure information."

As far as the extra $600 boost from the stimulus bill, the Texas Workforce Commission isn't sure when Texans will see it in their benefits.

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