What about unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 scare?

Now that many people are furloughed from work for two weeks due to COVID-19, many of you have been asking FOX 26 questions about whether you can still collect a paycheck.  The House of Representatives has passed a bill to expand unemployment benefits, but the Texas Workforce Commission says how Texans might be covered is still being worked out.   

"I worry about my kids," said mother Tanyarika Walker, who's looking for work. 

"Trying to find a job, but everything is closing.  And you're trying to keep your food stamps, but they don't understand everything is closed.  How are people going to pay their bills?  How are people going to pay their rent?" says Walker in frustration. 

One worker emailed FOX26 saying she and several employees at a store "asked to be taken off the schedule and have been denied at the risk of losing their jobs."  We checked with that store, which tells us it has relaxed its attendance policy for workers concerned about the Coronavirus.

On Facebook, another person asked us a common question, "Can your employer fire you if you are unable to come to work because of no daycare?"

We took those concerns to FOX 26 legal analyst Chris Tritico, who says in Texas, the law does not require an employer to retain an employee who doesn't report to work. 

"If you don't have vacation time or haven't built up comp time, which some employers let you do, if they tell you to come, in you have to come to work," said Tritico.

Another worker asked us on Facebook, "Are employers required to pay employees if they close for two weeks?"  

Tritico says no.  "Your employer has the right to pay you during this time, but they don't have to pay you," he said.

The good news for workers is that the House of Representatives and President Trump reached a deal to increase unemployment benefits.

Explained Tritico, "He freed up the state to allow us to apply for unemployment benefits for those 14 days that were sent home to wait out the period someone is contagious."

The Texas Workforce Commission says it expects to provide special COVID-19 information later this week, but encourage furloughed workers to apply for benefits now through this link: CLICK HERE. 

If your employment has been impacted by the Coronavirus, the TWC website reads as follows:

"If your employment has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19), apply for benefits either online at any time using Unemployment Benefits Services or by calling TWC’s Tele-Center at 800-939-6631 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time Monday through Friday.

TWC is experiencing an increase in call volumes and hold times on our Tele-Center phone lines. You are encouraged to use our online claim portal, Unemployment Benefits Services (UBS ), to handle your claim needs quickly. UBS is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We also encourage you to sign up for Electronic Correspondence so you can receive your TWC communications online as soon as possible.

TWC will investigate why you lost your job and mail a decision explaining whether you are eligible for unemployment benefits."

The Trump administration says it also supports a proposal to send cash payments to Americans in the next two weeks.