SUGAR LAND, Texas (KTRK) -- Erum Khan sets alarms throughout the night -- one at midnight, another at 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.
They're reminders for her to visit the Texas Workforce Commission's website and apply for unemployment, but no matter what she tries, she still hasn't been able to get through since her job reduced her hours more than a month ago.
Khan's husband owns a limousine company, but has been out of work too. Now, her days are spent splitting time between teaching her three children at home and trying to get through to someone at the unemployment office.
"It's a little bit frustrating with having three kids, helping them with online assignments and online learning and having this full-time job of applying for the benefits and not even getting a satisfactory answer," said Khan, of Sugar Land.
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Another 280,406 Texans applied for unemployment over the last week, bringing the five-week total to 1.3 million unemployment claims filed with the state, according to the latest U.S. Department of Labor data released Thursday. Nationwide, another 4.4 million Americans applied for unemployment, meaning more than 25 million Americans have declared unemployment over the last five weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Those numbers don't include people like Khan, who are trying to apply but still haven't been able to get through.
"I always get the same answer," Khan said. "When I call the office, I always get an automated machine, where they tell (you) to either go to the website and apply or they would ask me certain questions and then hang up on me."
For residents who haven't been able to apply yet, TWC Executive Director Ed Serna said they will get backdated pay from the time they were laid off due to the pandemic and that the program will have enough money to pay everyone who is approved.
"I can make an absolute promise that if they get unemployment, the checks won't bounce," Serna said. "The debit cards will be good. Direct deposits will occur no matter when you file your unemployment."
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Maria Rios, who lost her job as a clerk in the oil and gas industry on March 16, says it was stressful trying to figure out how she's going to pay for her bills while taking care of her kids.
"It's very devastating to be at home, being a single parent with two daughters and not knowing how you're going to go about (paying) your next (bills) due to the TWC difficulties and not being able to make a claim and apply for unemployment," Rios said.
She has spent some nights staying up until 6 a.m. trying to apply, but nothing works.
"I feel helpless because it doesn't matter what I do, I can't simply apply. It does not matter if you send an email. It does not matter if you call the number, it's always busy. It does not matter if you go early in the morning or late at night to apply online, it's still a dead end," she said.
Khan said she reached out to her local lawmaker three days ago for help but as of today, still hasn't been able to apply.
"If someone is listening, please help us because many of us are facing the same situation where we are applying throughout the day and we are not getting satisfactory answers," she said.
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Moms juggle parenting, attempts applying for unemployment
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