What happens if you return to work, then your hours get reduced again because of COVID-19?

Investigations

Frank Salas, prepares to hand containers of chicken, andouille sausage gumbo to a persons in line at Furlough Kitchen in East Dallas, which is operated out of Vestals Catering, Thursday, May 28, 2020. Furlough Kitchen was the idea of feeding furloughed and laid off restaurant industry personnel due to COVID-19. Since then, Furlough Kitchen operator and Vestals founder, Jordan Swim said that their effort has lead to the distribution of roughly 40,000 meals in Dallas alone, with several of those going to residents who live in the kitchen’s surrounding community. With workers being hired back to their jobs, the operation is scheduled to stop the meal distribution program Friday. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — John Tucker would welcome waiting on the phone for hours if it meant getting to talk to someone at the Texas Workforce Commission.

“My main frustration has just been the lack of communication,” said Tucker, who works for a local catering company.

One concern for Tucker is returning to full-time work. He was initially furloughed in mid-March.

Since mid-April, he has been back working part-time, along with his TWC unemployment benefits.

But what happens if he returns to full-time work — 40 hours a week — then drops to 20 hours the next week?

Those reservations — coupled with a lack of TWC answers — have him questioning whether he would lose unemployment and/or have to reapply for benefits.

“If I’m not going to be guaranteed to work at least 40 hours a week, I can’t pay my bills,” Tucker said. “I need hours. I can’t take a significant pay cut and go back to work.”

TWC spokesman Cisco Gamez said that those on unemployment must report hours and earnings each week they request payment.

MORE: Reduced hours because of COVID-19? Here’s a breakdown of TWC’s Shared Work program

“TWC will review their reported earnings and then determine whether the claimant earned too much to receive a benefit payment, or if they did not earn too much, how much their payment will be,” Gamez said.

Moreover, someone working full-time who sees their hours and wages cut may be considered “partially unemployed,” according to Gamez.

Overall, more than 2.8 million Texans have applied for unemployment and more than $8.7 billion has been paid out in benefits.

During Friday’s media briefing, Gamez also noted that for folks who missed their assigned date to request payment — and it’s been more than three weeks — the agency is seeking them out.

“Currently, we are actively running queries daily to identify these individuals and set them to backdate,” he said.

And, as far as Texas’ finances is concerned, state Comptroller Glenn Hegar also said Friday that Texas’ fiscal position is “strong enough to support vital programs for the remainder of this year.”

“But the legislative session that begins in January 2021 will face significant and perhaps unprecedented challenges,” Hegar said, noting that getting folks back to work is one of the bigger challenges.

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