Petition seeks to restore Texas' $300-a-week jobless benefit

Nick Natario Image
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Petition seeks to restore Texas' $300-a-week jobless benefit
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he's doing away with an extra $300 unemployment benefit, citing numbers of openings matching the numbers of unemployed. But for those seeking jobs, the speed of getting hired isn't meeting expectations.

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Boosted benefits will end for unemployed Texans in about a month, but not everyone is convinced it is enough to end the labor shortage.

On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced he is ending federal unemployment benefits, which includes an extra weekly $300. Several people, including John McKinney, who lost his job last month, attended a job fair that took place at Galveston ISD Tuesday.

"A little hard to hear, but it happens," McKinney said. "It didn't come as a huge shock because I knew the financial issues were happening."

McKinney applied for unemployment benefits. He said he thought it would include an extra $300 a week, but Abbott announced the state will opt out on June 26.

"I get what he did," McKinney said. "Honestly, I think it was a good decision to help businesses and get people back in the workforce."

Though, not everyone agrees.

Susan Winner works part-time, but she said the extra weekly $300 makes a big difference.

"I think people are still skeptical about going back into the workplace," Winner said. "People that either can't get vaccinated or don't want to get vaccinated. They don't want to be sick."

We didn't see many unemployed people looking for work at the job fair. There were employers hiring on the spot and some were even offering sign-on bonuses, but it wasn't enough to attract people on unemployment.

It's not a surprise to Dietrich Vollrath, an economics professor at the University of Houston.

"I'm skeptical that it's going to have a large effect because I think some of the forces that are keeping people from saying yes to these jobs are less about the money and more about some of the systemic things still going on," Vollrath said.

Vollrath also said the virus and childcare will prevent people from returning to work.

The governor's announcement on Monday also included an update on the unemployment fraud situation.

SEE RELATED: Why unemployment-benefits fraud victims are getting tax bills

A month ago, ABC13 found there were 611,300 unemployment claims flagged as suspicious. The governor said as of mid-May, the number is above 800,000. Last month, the state lost $691 million from the fraudulent claims. Texas Workforce Commission said this could impact all Texans because the tax rate business owners pay might go up to make up the difference.

"That is really the concern, that the burden will be on the businesses in Texas, and that's going to hurt hiring," said James Bernsen, a spokesperson for Texas Workforce Commission.

On Tuesday, TWC released a video explaining Abbott's decision does not mean all unemployment benefits will end in June. Regular state benefits will remain.

However, self-employed workers will lose all benefits and the extra $300 weekly boost will end.

There is an online petition with more than 1,500 signatures, urging the governor to change his mind.

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