Texas governor joins 18 states to end federal unemployment benefits

By Bethany Blankley 

Days after being asked to end extended federal unemployment benefits by more than 50 Texas business associations, Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Monday that he was withdrawing the state from the program.

Texas now follows 18 other states that have already ended the program.

Abbott informed the U.S. Department of Labor that Texas will opt out of the additional $300 weekly federal unemployment supplement from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) program, effective June 26. The date to opt out is not immediate because federal law requires the effective date of the change to be at least 30 days after notification is given to the U.S. Secretary of Labor.

The federal program was designed to help those who lost their jobs because of state shutdowns issued under the national state of emergency declaration first issued by former President Donald Trump in March 2020. Extended and additional federal payments were authorized by the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by Trump on March 27, 2020.

The payments initially expired Dec. 31, 2020, but were then extended to March 14, 2021, and then through Sept. 6, 2021 by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Since March 14, 2021, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) has paid out $49.2 billion in unemployment benefits. Among them, several COVID-19 related payments were made since spring 2020: $22.2 billion in PUC benefits paid since April 13, $5.1 billion PUA benefits paid since April 14, and $5.2 billion in PEUC paid since May 11, 2020.

Since March 14, 2020, the TWC has received 8.1 million claims for unemployment benefits.

Now that Texas is open 100%, Abbott says the state’s focus is on helping unemployed Texans apply to the more than one million jobs available.

“The Texas economy is booming, and employers are hiring in communities throughout the state,” Abbott said Monday. “According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment benefits. That assessment does not include the voluminous jobs that typically are not listed, like construction and restaurant jobs. In fact, there are nearly 60% more jobs open (and listed) in Texas today than there was in February 2020, the month before the Pandemic hit Texas.”

The current job openings in Texas are good-paying jobs, TWC says. Nearly 45% of available jobs offer wages greater than $15.50 per hour. Approximately 76% pay more than $11.50 per hour. Only 2% of posted jobs pay around the minimum wage.

The Texas Association of Business and 50 other associations thanked Abbott for ending Texas’ participation in the program.

“By eliminating the federal supplement, employers will be able to fill their job openings and unleash the full might of the Texas economy,” TAB CEO Glenn Hamer said.

A recent TAB survey found that the $300 additional weekly federal stimulus payment was a major barrier to hiring because potential employees were receiving more money from state and federal governments to not work than to be employed. Among the respondents, 80% said the federal payments should be eliminated.