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Good afternoon Austin leaders and friends,

In July (our most recent data available), at least 50,000 Travis Co residents are on jobless benefits. Pandemic stipends of $600 per week were paid until July 25, when their authorization expired. As of September 5, the President’s additional $300 per week in pandemic or “lost wages” assistance applied for by Gov. Greg Abbott expired, unfortunately, after just six weeks. Congress and the White House have shown few signs that an additional stimulus is in our near-term future. We know that many in our community are struggling financially. Many still jobless were employed in “face-to-face” retail, accommodation, food service, and entertainment sectors in danger of longer-term or even permanent loss. Many have fears of the virus re-spreading and overall anxiety about the future. Many people are waiting for some sense of re-assurance and what they should do now.

Due to support from the City of Austin and Travis County, I am proud that Workforce Solutions will be able to rapidly roll out our Phase 1 strategy to move several hundred jobless residents into restructured, rapid, and safe training programs to help them earn more money in the new year. This support will come in the form of a financial stipend and a la carte supports in career advising, childcare, digital inclusion, and transportation.

As of September 5, the President’s additional $300 per week in pandemic or “lost wages” assistance applied for by Gov. Greg Abbott expired, unfortunately, after just six weeks.

I hope you’ll join us on Sep 30 for our annual Community Workforce Plan event, The Plan Ahead: Preparing Austin’s Workforce Out of the Pandemic. In a time more urgent than ever, we’ll provide a crisp look at our community’s progress toward accomplishing our goal to move 10,000 people out of poverty through training, our regional response to the spike of joblessness in the current pandemic, and how business and government leaders can help Austin prepare for the present and the immediate future. State and local leaders — including Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Bryan Daniel, Senator Sarah Eckhardt, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, Mayor Steve Adler, and more — will also present the latest labor exchange information, innovation, and how forward-thinking policy can help us rapidly scale our Phase 1 effort (more below).

In partnership, Tamara


A closer look at Travis County’s 50,485 July unemployed residents, and how people of color are disproportionately impacted

As in our preliminary analysis of June’s laid-off workers, the unemployed in July are disproportionately persons of color, younger, were previously entry-level workers in face-to-face jobs, and have a high school diploma or GED. WFS will continue to analyze unemployment and jobless claimant data to better serve and understand our community’s needs.

Note: Self-employed, independent, gig, and contract workers typically ineligible for regular state unemployment (e.g., PUA claimants) are not counted in the monthly unemployment rates.

  • Residents ages 16-34 make up over half (51.4%) of the July unemployed, compared to 30.6% of the labor force.
  • Travis Co residents with less education than an associate’s degree (39.5%) are disproportionately affected compared to the labor force with this education level (29.1%). The higher the education level, the smaller the impact.
  • One in four unemployed Travis Co residents were previously in food service, retail, and personal care occupations.
    • 2.6% were previously in healthcare occupations.
    • 2.4% were previously in IT occupations.
  • Travis Co industries with the most June unemployment are Unknown (8,888); Retail (5,659); Professional, Scientific, and Tech (5,046); and Accommodation and Food Services (4,786).

And people of color continue to be disproportionately impacted by unemployment:

  • Black residents make up 12.8% of the July unemployed compared to 8% in the working-age population, according to Burning Glass Technologies Labor Insights.
    • See breakdown ↗️
    • Of note: In July 2020, 16.2% of all jobless claimants in Travis Co were black. These claimants include those not typically qualified for regular unemployment insurance like self‐employed, gig, and contract workers.
  • Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to have less education than their white counterparts.
    • Of the July unemployed, 48% of Blacks and 63.7% of Hispanics have a high school diploma, GED, or less, compared to 23.3% of Whites.
    • See breakdown ↗️
  • Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to have previously worked in the hardest-hit industries — Retail, Accommodation, and Food Services.
    • Of the July unemployed whose previous industry is known, 30.3% of Blacks, 27.3% of Hispanics, and 22.6% of Whites were previously in the Retail, Accommodation, and Food Services industries, regardless of occupation.
    • Roughly 25% of the July unemployed in Travis Co were previously in these industries.


FEMA ends $300 per week Lost Wages Assistance program after six weeks of payments

On Sep 9, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) informed TWC that the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program ends with the benefit week ending Sep 5, 2020. There is no additional assistance stipend for the jobless unless Congress and the White House act to pass an additional federal stimulus package.

  • LWA provided an additional $300 a week to qualified unemployment claimants, above Texas’ current unemployment benefits.
  • Because FEMA’s funds were limited, TWC cannot extend payments beyond that date without further federal action.
    • TWC will continue to pay eligible claimants for the six benefit weeks FEMA approved (from Aug 1 to Sep 5), for as long as the existing federal funds deposited to TWC remain available.
  • The Lost Wages Assistance Program was a temporary provision established after the expiration of the $600 pandemic stipend, a part of the CARES Act.
    • Other provisions of the federal act do not expire until Dec 26, 2020. This includes Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides an extra 13 weeks of benefits to those who exhaust traditional benefits, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides up to 46 weeks of benefits to those who are self-employed or typically ineligible for state benefits.

The big picture: With high levels of unemployment and relatively few job openings in the “face-to-face” sector, and with little uptake on rapid job training for these workers to change industries, a significant cut in take-home will begin once more for Austin’s jobless claimants.

  • Without an appropriation to continue the stipend, the demand for WFS services — job matching and training support — is expected to surge.


How Travis County and City of Austin ‘Phase 1’ funding awarded to WFS will connect Austin’s jobless and low-income to career training, supports, and employment

Thanks to unanimous support last week from Travis County Commissioners Court and Austin City Council, WFS has secured Phase 1 funds to establish a marketing and tech infrastructure to help low-income and jobless Austinites.

  • The Phase 1-funded tech hub will allow WFS to communicate with area jobless, solicit their engagement in rapid training, and provide more closely knit training, support, and a stipend for250+ lower-income residents to transition into higher-paying, growing industry and business sector jobs.
  • The requested high-quality, no-cost, safe training funded in Phase 1 is intended to result in jobs that pay at least $35,000 – $45,000+ per year after training completion.
    • WFS is working with ACC and CBOs to develop a list of eligible training providers who can provide rapid, safe, high-quality trainings that meet the expectations for local jobs in growing industries.
  • WFS has also designed and will resource a complimentary wrap-around, customized services approach.
    • This wrap-around approach will provide those enrolled and attending designated trainings with: 1) a stipend above state unemployment, or any future federal stipend, if eligible, and 2) training supports as needed, including transportation, childcare, digital inclusion, and career navigation and job placement support.

Yes, but: To fund Phase 2,federal stimulus talks will need to provide workforce development and state and local funds to assist in stimulating the economy.

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