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In just over 4 months, 6 YEARS worth of jobless claims have been filed in Texas, state says

On Thursday's Right on the Money: TWC has new info for those awaiting payment increases, Dallas County offers housing relief, and mortgage rates hit new low.

DALLAS — Since mid-March, 4.3 million unemployment claims have been made in the state, according to the Texas Workforce Commission. That stunning figure is even more impressive when put into context. 

The number of claims in that handful of months is roughly equal to what the unemployment agency would expect to receive in six ‘normal’ years, the TWC said.  

For the week ending Aug. 1, Texas saw a decrease in the number of filings, with 61,940 unemployment applications submitted. As was the case with the week prior, this marks the lowest weekly jobless number in Texas since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

That notwithstanding, the number is still significantly higher than what the state would experience in normal times.   

Update for 1099 workers waiting for benefit increases

Many self-employed and contract employees (commonly called 1099 workers) have asked why they are still receiving the minimum weekly benefit amount of $207. Many have submitted paperwork to the TWC to prove their wages and possibly receive a higher weekly benefit. 

The TWC says many of those forms have been sent in by mail, fax, and through the TWC’s online portal. The online uploads provide the only confirmation that the agency has received the documents. The TWC urges people not to send the documents multiple times, 

“If you send multiple copies, it may slow the system down for others as each tax document must be reviewed,” officials said.  

The TWC has updated the number of applicants currently in its system who are awaiting verification of their tax information for a possible benefit adjustment. 

“There are approximately 450 PUA claimants that are still waiting for possible adjustment to their weekly benefit amount," the TWC said. "These would be people that are self-employed and had a net profit for 2019 that exceeded $20,800. We estimate that this will be complete in two to three days.” 

If you are among those waiting for such an adjustment, TWC says it is letting people know if their documentation has been reviewed, but they weren't found eligible for an increase, "If the person submitting the information has an email address on file with us, we are emailing them if the proof they provided was insufficient or if the profit was less than 21,000".  

Another viewer unemployment question answered

In our ongoing efforts to get viewer questions about unemployment answered, we asked TWC whether withdrawing money from an IRA impacts benefits payments. One viewer had asked us to pass that question alone because she was thinking of taking such a withdrawal to pay for her child's education expenses, but she was finding conflicting information about whether accessing that money would count against her unemployment benefits. TWC told us flatly,
"No, a one time withdrawal does not impact the UI benefits". 

Lawmakers tangle over extending federal unemployment, as many are in desperate situation

Those on unemployment are no longer getting the additional $600 in federal payments each week. That supplement ended in Texas on July 25. 

Congressional Democrats want to extend the extra $600 per week through January 2021, but Republicans have proposed drastically pulling back on those payments. 

As Congress and the Trump administration battle over what to do next, the Ascent (a Motley Fool company), published a recent survey in which 31.5% of people getting benefits said they won’t even be able to make it through August without those extra $600 payments.  

And another study done by JP Morgan Chase and the University of Chicago found that ending the federal supplement would have “potentially negative effects on both households and macroeconomic activity.” 

Economists included a graph to illustrate that. It shows that people who have remained employed (the blue line) during the pandemic have been spending less. 

But they noted that people who have been unemployed and getting enhanced unemployment benefits (the orange line) have actually spent more during the pandemic than they did before it started.  

Rent, mortgage, and utility assistance

There are still a lot of people struggling because of the economic downturn. Dallas County has reopened a program that provides temporary rent, mortgage, or utility assistance. 

They’re taking applications now through Aug. 20. 

Anyone who applies has to live outside the city of Dallas, but within Dallas County. There are other requirements. Click here to learn more. 

Mortgage rates hit (another) low

Many homeowners might also be able to find more lasting mortgage relief, with a refinance. For the eighth time this year, mortgage rates have dropped to record lows. 

Some experts say many homeowners could benefit right now from a refi, but there is still a possibility rates could fall further. Bankrate offers some basic things to consider regarding refinancing.