AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Workforce Commission opened a new call center on Friday, April 24 in order to help with the influx of calls regarding unemployment benefits amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That will add 300 people to take calls,” TWC executive director Ed Serna said. “They’ll probably be fully up to speed very early next week, because we’ll be working through the weekend.”
Serna said before the pandemic, the TWC staffed about 350 to 400 people in the existing call centers.
“As of today, we have those 400 people, plus an additional close to 1000 people maybe a little bit more than 1000 people answering the phone, so close to 1500 people answering the telephone,” Serna said those extra people are desperately needed, as the number of calls the TWC is receiving each week is not slowing down any time soon.
“Interestingly enough, the total number of people getting to us or trying to get into trying to get to is hasn’t decreased, nor has it increased substantially,” Serna explained, “And it is probably because of more and more businesses as this thing stretches out more and more businesses are having to furlough their staff. More industries are affected.”
In addition to taking calls, TWC is also making calls. Those outgoing calls include thousands of self-employed Texans who erroneously received letters telling them they are not eligible for any benefits.
“Initially it was it was over 90,000 went out,” Serna explained, “The reason they got that letter is because under normal circumstances, they’re not eligible for benefits.”
Serna said the TWC is working to fix the system so those letters do not go out automatically anymore, because, under the CARES Act, self-employed Texans are eligible for benefits. In the meantime, he said these workers will be contacted soon.
“If you receive one of those letters, we’re going to get to you and we’re going to get to as quickly as we can. We’re not talking weeks, we’re talking, you know, days, we probably already have gotten to you,” Serna said.