DALLAS — Last week, another 254,199 Texans filed for unemployment. In the past six weeks, more than 1.5 million people in this state have lost their jobs.
Here are the totals for Texas for the five weeks prior, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration:
- 3/21/2020 155,426
- 3/28/2020 276,185
- 4/04/2020 315,167
- 4/11/2020 274,257
- 4/18/2020 280,761
Now, some of those jobs are about to come back as businesses across the state slowly start reopening.
But what if you are worried about going back to work because of COVID-19? Normally, if your position is offered back to you and you don’t take it—you lose unemployment benefits.
However the state announced some new guidance for unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 crisis.
According to information released on Thursday, people who fall under a few categories will be able to continuing receiving benefits if they choose not to go back to work.
Acceptable reasons for refusal to return to work include:
- Those in a high risk category (65 or older) or who live with someone at high risk
- A person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or had someone in their household test positive, neither has recovered and 14 days haven't passed
- Those in quarantine due to being in close contact with a confirmed case
- Those who cannot find child care because of the pandemic
Any other situation will be evaluated by the TWC on a case-by-case basis.
So far, there hasn’t been any official sweeping change for those who are simply fearful about returning to work right now.
The Texas Workforce Commission also provided a couple more answers with regards to unemployment benefits as businesses reopen:
1. Some people are about to start getting paid by their employer because the business got a PPP loan. In that case, the worker would no longer qualify for unemployment, correct? Or might they still qualify, but must report the wages to determine for sure?
If an employee returns to work full time, they would not be eligible for UI benefits and should stop requesting payment once they begin working. If an employee returns to part time work, they may be eligible to receive benefits because of reduced hours. They are required to submit wages when they request payment. The amount of wages they received would determine if they are eligible or not eligible to receive benefits.
Some business owners may be wondering…if they choose not to reopen even though they are allowed under state orders, does that business have to pay more for their employees’ unemployment benefits?
The law provides for chargeback protection for an employer if its workers file UI claims based on COVID-19-related circumstances.
Dickey's CEO on reopening in Texas
As businesses re-open to a quarter of capacity, some acknowledge they won’t be making profits.
“That 25% isn’t about making money. We are not going to be profitable….at that level. You have got to get to 75% or 100% before you are profitable," said Laura Dickey, CEO of Dickey's Barbecue Pit.
The chain has 79 locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, more than 100 location across Texas, and more than 500 in the U.S.
Dickey said opening at lower occupancy is to show that the processes put in place work and are safe, before being scaled up.
"That is the rule in business---you nail it and then scale it,” she said.
Dickey says her company is one of the lucky ones that has been able to weather the closure of dining rooms by cutting some hours, but hasn't had to resort to mass layoffs or furloughs of their Dallas-area staff.
“We had a really good online ordering digital infrastructure. That literally is one of the factors that saved the business," she said. "But it took a revenue channel that was 36% of our business and within five business days became over 91% of our business."
Dickey doesn’t expect customers to come running back as businesses reopen.
"I think what we will see is not a huge re-flood of people back into the dining room. It’ll be very conscientious, very paced, very slow, very safe and comfortable first for our pit crew and then our guests," said Dickey.
She believes they need to come in and see the visual cues that the company is taking steps to protect employees and customers in order to feel comfortable.
"They need to walk in and see that we have hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectant that we are using all over our restaurant. They need to see that our folks are in masks and gloves. They need to see that we have hand sanitizer stations at the door. They need to see that the tables are out but only 25 percent of the chairs are there," said Dickey.
Dickey says she has been able to keep her supply chains in order, but right now, she doesn’t know what demand will look like to know if they have the right supply.
“How do we do we make sure that we have product? How do we adjust forecasting demand? How do we make sure that product that is sitting there doesn’t go to waste? So, lots of logistical challenge.”
Dickey’s employees don’t rely on tips, but some servers at eateries who do worry they'll make less working than on unemployment. Dickey understands that worry.
"There’s definite concern. There’s anxiety there. And I think a lot depends on what that service model looks like for folks," she said.
Real estate activity impacted by coronavirus
There is news on the housing front. A new flash survey by the National Association of Realtors finds that more than a quarter of renters are having trouble paying on time right now, and many of them don’t have understanding landlords.
This is a snapshot about that from their full report:
The survey also looks at real estate activity or inactivity nationwide, showing that 60% of sellers and 70% of buyers are holding off. Here’s a potentially big enticement. This week, interest rates hit an all-time low.
“I actually had one that locked in a 2.875 on a 30-year conventional. That’s unheard of,” said Realtor Joe Atkins.
Realtor to WFAA’s Joe Trahan, Atkins has been on the boards of real estate associations at the local, state, and national levels.
In a previous interview, Atkins talked about how business has continued (sales have remained strong), even during stay-at-home orders. He also talks about what he and many of his colleagues see in the local real estate market in the months ahead.