Government Benefits

Career Transition Primer

GOVERNMENT BENEFITS
Unemployment Insurance is probably one of the first services we associate with not having a job. You may not qualify for unemployment insurance, but you probably do. You can find out if you qualify for benefits by contacting one of the Texas Employment Commission (TEC) offices and following their instructions. A list of TEC offices is in the State of Texas Blue Pages at the front of the Greater Houston Business White Pages. Try the TEC office at 713-596-4170 if you don't have the White pages handy.

The rules for qualifying for unemployment insurance are not simple. Fortunately there are people at the TEC who's job is to determine if you qualify. I am amazed at the number of unemployed engineers who decide for themselves that they do not qualify for unemployment insurance. I guess that's one definition of independently wealthy.

Generally, this unemployment insurance amounts to $231 per week, with regular benefits lasting for 26 weeks. Sometimes these benefits are extended and there is always special programs available with additional monetary, counseling, and educational benefits. Ask about programs with names such as the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program and always ask for an explanation of puzzling jargon or acronyms.

Be patient with the TEC bureaucracy - it is better than it used to be but is still managed by classic bureaucrats. The TEC is more aware of white collar unemployment and their newer rules for obtaining benefits reflect this awareness. None the less, when you go be sure to bring something to read and follow all the instructions. The lines are not as bad as you think and you might actually be greeted by a former co-worker. One thing is for sure - if you go in with a "crappy attitude" you will get what you deserve. And even the unemployed lawyer will laugh at you.

Several other considerations: If your company is based in another state, the TEC is still the place to file for benefits if you live in Texas. If you work directly for a company outside the United States, you may or may not qualify for benefits. If you draw severance pay, you can still apply for benefits (although you may not get them until after your severance is used up). Let the TEC tell you the rules; it's their job and they are the experts.

ALWAYS REMEMBER, AND NEVER FORGET -- UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS ARE TAXABLE. At the same time, many job search expenses are tax deductible. Keep good records and talk to a tax expert, either your own or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS @ 541-0440).

Other Services are also available to you, if you are unemployed. Generally the best way to find these "free" services is by starting with the TEC office nearest your home. These services are described in more detail later in this directory. Some of these services include:

  1. The Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), better known as the Dislocated Workers Program (a job search workshop with "office environment" facilities).
  2. State and federally funded training programs (such as the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program).
  3. Programs which will pay for long distance phone calls, stamps and stationary to mail resumes, trip expenses for out of town interviewing, and even moving expenses to you new job.
  4. Consumer credit counseling (as with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Gulf Coast @ 923-2227).
  5. Access to public and private job openings listed in databases.

It's your responsibility to pursue these service opportunities. Furthermore, nothing listed above will cost you any money - you were either already paying for it when you had a job, or others realize it is in their best interest to work with you while you're unemployed.