Legal battle to reinstate boosted unemployment benefits may continue after they ended

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Tuesday, June 29, 2021
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The unemployment benefits people were receiving during the pandemic will no longer be distributed. That means no extra $300 and those who are self-employed will now receive nothing. ABC13's Nick Natario spoke with one Houstonian who needs that money, but is there hope? There might be.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A legal battle could brew after Texas cut off boosted yearly unemployment benefits.

Over the weekend, unemployment benefits for self-employed Texans, extended state benefits and the extra weekly $300 ended.

The Texas Workforce Commission told ABC13 this impacts 500,000 Texans.

"We're in imminent danger of becoming homeless," said Susan Winner, one of those 500,000 people. "Our lease is up in July. It probably won't be renewed. We're having a hard place to go, so, we're in imminent danger."

As Gov. Greg Abbott made the announcement, a Facebook group is working to get them restored. A petition was filed last week in Travis County and a hearing took place on Friday.

The judge sided with the state. However, legal experts told ABC13 an injunction might be able to be filed because the federal government will fund benefits until September.

Eyewitness News reached out to the attorney representing the group to see if he's going to file an injunction, but we didn't get a response.

"My husband has had two strokes this year and has been in and out of the hospital the last couple of months, and I'm working part-time," Winner said. "It's what's keeping us afloat."

The governor's office didn't respond to a request about the petition. Meanwhile, the Texas Workforce Commission said it can't comment on pending litigation.

The agency said there are 850,000 positions available on the state's job website.

Abbott said the amount of openings is why he ended the benefits early.

One place looking to hire is Gratify Neighborhood Bistro in Rice Village. The owner, Grant Cooper, said the lack of employees has kept him closed.

"We anticipated opening in February," Cooper said. "We're now in June. We're about three or four months behind when we anticipated opening."

Cooper said only a third of the front house staff has been hired and it may take several more weeks until the restaurant is open.

Despite the governor's announcement about ending benefits, Cooper said he hasn't noticed a difference.

"I haven't seen a difference in the last couple of weeks than I have seen over the last three or four months," he said. "I may be surprised, hopefully."

Cooper isn't only looking to hire at the bistro. He also has positions at his other locations, including Coppa Osteria, Brasserie 19 and The Dunlavy.

If you're interested in applying, you can visit the locations on weekdays from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. or you can call (713) 524-7865 or you can visit the Gratify Houston website.

For the latest updates on the state's unemployment benefits, follow ABC13 reporter Nick Natario on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.