What happens if you choose not to go back to work in Texas?
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Another report of initial unemployment claims data will be released tomorrow morning. The number of first-time applications for unemployment benefits has been declining for the past six weeks, but state unemployment offices are incredibly busy.
Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Ed Serna, executive director of the Texas Workforce Commission, to see how things are going in Texas.
“It’s getting a little better, but not as good as we’d like it to be,” Serna said. “We still have a lot of people that we need to help.”
Texas’s shelter-in-place order ended this month, so restaurants, retail, and many other businesses are open again, with limited capacity. While many Texans have returned to work, some don’t feel comfortable going out.
“We are prepared to make some allowances,” Serna said, to allow people who are staying home to continue receiving unemployment benefits. “If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 or you are at high risk or if you have childcare issues. The others, those are going to require us to look into the situation.”
Serna noted that the TWC’s default will be to continue to pay benefits until they can complete the investigation.
Click the audio player above to hear the interview.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?
Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.
How has the pandemic changed scientific research?
Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.
What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?
Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”
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