Texas Workforce Commission getting almost 30,000 claims a day

Texas Workforce Commission officials are still tallying the number of unemployment insurance claims they’ve received this month, but in the past week alone, there have been more than 150,000 claims, said Executive Director Ed Serna during a Facebook Live video Wednesday afternoon.

Texas Workforce Commission is receiving close to 30,000 claims each day, Serna said.

“Our goal is to serve the citizens of the state of Texas — our neighbors — as aptly as we can,” Serna said.

Many people who have been calling in for assistance have had trouble getting through, and the reason is that the total number of people calling is “in excess of 800,000 individuals,” Serna said.

In order to address the problem, the commission is reassigning and temporarily hiring staff members to the call centers and expanding their hours of operation to include 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, he said.

The commission has increased the number and size of servers to its website to handle more online visitors, he said.

“We’re addressing everything that we can as quickly as we can,” Serna said. “I assure you, we will help everyone that needs help.”

There is enough funding now to support all who qualify for unemployment benefits, and if necessary, the commission will seek additional funding from the federal government, Serna said.

There are no provisions available for the commission to extend the 26-week period that people can stay on unemployment benefits, he said, but the work search requirement and the week waiting period have both been suspended. However, benefits start only after the application has been finalized — not from the period of time that the process gets going, he said.

Those in need of unemployment insurance benefits can apply 24/7 online or can call 800-939-6631. For problems getting through online or via the 800 number, Serna recommends that people continue to call at different times, or continue to try accessing the system online at different times, he said.

Angleton halts utility disconnections

Angleton has extended its disaster declaration through April 23, Mayor Jason Perez said.

Residents who are unable to pay their water bill during this time will still have late fees applied to their account, usually by April 5, but the utility will not be disconnected and the disconnect fee will be waived, Perez said.

The mayor asked worried residents who are past due on their bill to contact city hall in advance to discuss further planning.

“We aren’t a rich city,” Perez said.

The city is exploring options to help small businesses, Perez said.

Lake Jackson suspends yard parking ban

The ban on parking in residential yards is suspended after Lake Jackson Mayor Bob Sipple signed an emergency directive Wednesday.

Residents were previously forbidden from parking passenger vehicles in yards that would be visible from the street. The emergency directive does not indicate an ending date for the suspension.

C-BISD approves payment for all staff 

The Columbia-Brazoria ISD Board of Trustees adopted a resolution to guarantee all C-BISD employees will not miss a payday during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“All employees will get paid their base salaries,” Superintendent Steven Galloway said.

Hourly employees for the school district will be included in the pay cycle, he said.

Wild Peach Elementary Kindergarten teacher Cindy Plaia was elated to know she can fully focus on instructing her class.

"This relieves a lot of stress for my family and I," Plaia said. "I won't have to worry about paying bills."

Danbury ISD staff to be paid

Danbury ISD Board of Trustees unanimously decided to pay staff throughout school closure, whether or not they are working.

The resolution was unanimously passed during a meeting Monday to allow all employees to be paid at their regular wages, whether or not they are currently working, Danbury ISD Superintendent's Secretary Lisa Menard said.

Texas-New Mexico Power offers grant funding to qualifying nonprofits

Texas-New Mexico Power is offering grant funding for qualifying nonprofit organizations for programs that enhance community safety, according to a news release.

Nonprofits must be in areas that are serviced by Texas-New Mexico Power and preference will given to programs that will address the impact of COVID-19 on senior citizens, the press release states. Grant amounts may range from $10,000 to $50,000.

“The impact this virus can have has been worrisome to us all, particularly anyone who has loved ones who are seniors,” Texas-New Mexico Power President Neal Walker said.

Applications are accepted today through April 2. For more information, visit www.tnmp.com/about-us/community-outreach.

Abbott requests SNAP benefits to used at restaurants

Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission issued a letter to the Department of Agriculture insisting recipients of the Texas Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program be allowed to use their benefits for take out and drive-thru restaurants.

The program provides monthly funding to be used for nutritional foods for low income people.

"If approved, it would open up another food source for 3.2 million Texans," a news release states.

CHI St. Luke's Texas issues a no-visitor policy for safety

In protection of patients and visitors, employees and physicians, CHI Texas Division will dramatically increase visitation restrictions, said CHI Texas Division officials.

Effective 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, no visitors will be allowed on hospital grounds, except for several specific special cases, as decided by medical professionals, including end-of-life, pediatric, NICU, labor and delivery, said Emelda Moreno, CHI St. Luke's Health Brazosport communications and marketing coordinator. No visitors under the age of 18 will be allowed on the premises, regardless of circumstance.

Anyone entering the hospital will be screened with a list of questions to ensure there are no symptoms present and that there was no recent travel to high-risk areas for COVID-19, Moreno said. If they do not pass the screening, they may only enter the hospital to seek care and anyone coughing will need a mask.

“Masks are handed out to those who are symptomatic as well as anyone who requests one,” said Jessica Guerra, CHI St. Luke’s Health Brazosport infection control nurse.

Workforce Solutions to host workshop for small business

Workforce Solutions is hosting a workshop that can help small business owners get the means they need to move forward.

The coronavirus is wreaking havoc towards small businesses, especially those deemed “non-essential."

Workforce Solutions is providing a free Coronavirus Disaster Relief Options for Small Businesses workshop on from 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday March 31 via webinar.

The event will be hosted by Houston-Galveston Local Development Corporation Senior Business Developer Isaac Perez, who has a proven track record of navigating the public sector to achieve public policy and economic development goals, a Workforce Solutions press release states.

Perez will share information regarding Economic Injury Disaster Loans through Small Business Administration, bridge loans through Houston-Galveston Local Development Corporation as well as non-monetary resources, the press release said.

Visit www.eventbrite.com/e/coronavirus-disaster-relief-options-for-small-businesses-tickets-100535799282 for more information. 

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