Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is opting out of the federal supplement to unemployment benefits that were instituted during the COVID-19 pandemic to help workers. The governor is rejecting the aid — which will continue nationally through September — starting on Saturday, June 26.
In a press release, Gov. Abbott cites numbers from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) stating that the number of people receiving unemployment benefits is “almost identical” to the number of open positions listed at TWC, which doesn’t include restaurant or construction jobs. The press release states that 45 percent of the open jobs pay more than $15.50 per hour.
The governor’s office claims this is a necessary measure to stop fraudulent unemployment claims, which TWC estimates account for 18 percent of all unemployment claims submitted during the pandemic. However, as Lieutenant Gubernatorial candidate Mike Collier points out in a tweet, that since the unemployment supplement comes from taxpayer dollars, Texans will essentially be paying for the benefits in other states and not receiving them.
Ending the supplement was supported by many organizations including the Texas Association of Business, Texas Hotel & Lodging Association, and the Texas Restaurant Association, many of which cited the supplemental benefits as a barrier to hiring.
The move is attracting criticism. Some point out that the benefit doesn’t cost Texans anything. The Texas Tribune noted that many face challenges returning to the workforce or coordinating childcare. Eater recently spoke with several restaurant workers who want to work, but have concerns about wages and safety.
Gov. Abbott removed the state mask mandate and all COVID-19 restrictions in the state on March 10, followed by a new order today citing that no government entities in the state could still issue mask mandates. However, Austin and Travis County are extended its mask requirement for unvaccinated and partially unvaccinated individuals through June 14.