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Unemployment Benefits Expanded: Who's Now Eligible And How To Apply

DALLAS  (CBSDFW.COM) - In the past 18 days, a record half a million Texans have filed for unemployment.

At this pace, the Texas Workforce Commission will process more claims in a month's span than it did all of last year.

The $2 trillion emergency relief bill signed by President Trump expands unemployment benefits as well as eligibility to workers who normally would not qualify.

Who is now eligible for unemployment?

Along with the full-time workers who have lost their job; part-time employees, self-employed workers, and gig workers are now eligible too.

This includes workers such a Uber drivers who may be seeing fewer rides.

The Texas Workforce Commission says if you cannot work because of the coronavirus, you are more than likely to receive benefits.

What if you were furloughed?

Macy's and JCPenney are among several major retailers to announce they are furloughing workers.

These workers are forced to take a temporary leave of absence with no pay but, in many cases, still receive benefits, such as health insurance.

Under the stimulus bill, anyone who is furloughed due to the coronavirus is qualifies for unemployment benefits.

Who does not qualify?

Anyone that can work from home or that is currently receiving paid leave.

How much money will eligible workers get?

Unemployment benefits range based on a number of factors but in Texas the average unemployment benefit is $246 per week.

The federal stimulus bill is now adding an extra $600 to those benefits - making the new average benefit in Texas roughly $846 a week.

How long can you be covered?

In Texas you can receive benefits up to 26 weeks but the federal government has now expanded that adding another 13 weeks for a maximum total of 39 weeks.

How do you apply?

The easiest way is to apply is online at Texas Workforce Commission ( Filling out an application online usually takes less than seven minutes.

You can also call 1-800-939-6631 but, because of the demand for benefits, getting through by phone has been difficult for many.

Cisco Gamez with the Texas Workforce Commission said, "We know it is frustrating for people who are trying to call and trying to get through online and can't. We understand. We are asking people to be patient with us. We want to help them."

Gamez said if you are having a tough time getting through, try applying online, if possible, between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. when the systems experience their lowest volume.

The TWC says it is receiving nearly a million and a half calls a day.

Two-hundred workers from other departments have been added to help process claims.

The TWC has also hired another 100 call takers.

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