Texas bar employees — unemployed again — could wait 3 weeks for state benefits


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Bar employees in Texas had only been back to work for a month before Gov. Greg Abbott ordered bars to close again.

Now, they could have to wait weeks before receiving unemployment benefits from the Texas Workforce Commission.

Texans who had been back to work for two weeks or less can easily continue their unemployment benefits, according to a TWC spokesperson. But if it’s been several weeks since a full-time employee requested benefits from the state, they have to start the process over.

“In general, when you apply again it takes around 21 days, on average, from the time that you apply and become eligible to receive those benefits,” said Cisco Gamez, a public relations specialist for TWC.

TWC announced on Monday that a work search requirement for those receiving unemployment benefits was paused.

Alyssa Flores, a server at Nightcap in Austin, is preparing to apply for unemployment benefits, again.

Nightcap has operated as a restaurant since opening more than four years ago, but it’s licensed like a bar and makes more than 50% of its gross revenue on alcohol and was forced to shut down under Abbott’s latest order.

Back in March, when she first applied for unemployment benefits, Flores said it took three weeks before money from the state arrived in her account.

“I just don’t even want to think about the paperwork,” Flores said. “You have to go back through all your payments, you have to claim everything that you have been making. I’m looking at a pile of paycheck stubs.”

Nightcap owner Christin Rowan feels the emotional weight caused by struggling employees. In March, she proactively told each of her employees to apply for unemployment benefits with so much uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rowan was forced to shut down Nightcap as part of Abbott’s latest order, though her establishment has socially-distanced seating and only reopened its patio space. A sign on the patio reads: “Gov. Abbott alcohol sales do not matter but doing the right thing does!!”

“When their jobs are being taken from them, it hurts,” Rowan told KXAN. “It’s not their fault.”

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission determines which businesses can remain open based on their type of license and sales revenues that are sent to the state every two years. A TABC spokesperson said businesses can report revisions to its sales revenues and options may be available to allow the business to reopen.

Rowan is hoping to work with the governor’s office, and TABC, to find a way to reopen Nightcap, safely.

For now, Flores is preparing to file for unemployment benefits for a second time, while knowing exactly what to expect.

“That’s three weeks of not knowing if I can spend money on groceries,” she said.

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