3-minute read

Good morning Austin friends,

Happy New Year! As I look ahead, even though times are tough for many economically and in health, I’m thankful to be in Travis County and grateful we have each other.

ICYMI: Last week, the President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which extends enhanced/expanded federal unemployment benefits through mid-March. Other notable inclusions in the legislation: funds for PPP, live entertainment venues, child care, and broadband. Read more in my previous report.

What’s happening in the Austin metro job market:

  • New Austin Chamber chair Nikki Graham is upbeat on Austin’s prospects for pandemic recovery, featured in an article written by Bob Sechler for Austin-American Statesman. Graham spoke on this and the importance of workforce training efforts — with partners like Workforce Solutions Capital Area — to help people get back on their feet.
  • TWC’s latest report projected Austin’s November unemployment rate had sharply increased, mirroring the roller coaster many of us are experiencing navigating through this economy.
  • On Monday, city officials announced that Austin and Travis County bumped up to Stage 5 of the city’s risk-based Covid-19 restrictions for the first time during the pandemic.
  • Austin and Travis County restaurants and bars received recommendations for heightened restrictions, including rolling back to only takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery services.
  • On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court blocked the Austin and Travis County orders requiring restaurants and bars to close dine-in services nightly from 10:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting on New Year’s Eve through January 3.

Below, get a breakdown of the changes to Austinites’ jobless benefits, and learn about two new child care programs to further early childhood efforts and the region’s future workforce.

In partnership, Tamara.


Breaking down changes to Texans’ jobless benefits

Below are a few key ways the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 affects Texans’ unemployment benefits.

  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is extended for an additional 11 weeks through March 13, 2021.
    • PUA provides federally funded unemployment benefits for those who are self-employed, gig workers, or typically ineligible for state benefits.
    • After March 13, new claimants can no longer apply for PUA benefits. But eligible individuals who were receiving PUA benefits as of that date can continue to receive benefits during a “phase-out period” that ends April 10, 2021.
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) is now available for an additional 11 weeks through March 13, 2021, for a total of 50 weeks.
    • PEUC provides additional weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits to individuals who exhaust their regular state benefits.
    • Like PUA, after March 13, new claimants can no longer apply for PEUC benefits. But eligible individuals who were receiving PEUC benefits as of that date can continue to receive benefits until April 10.
  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) resumes for 11 weeks at $300 per week, until March 13.
    • This payment amount replaces the earlier $600 per week that expired in July.
    • There is no “phase-out period” for FPUC. These additional payments end firmly on March 13.
  • Important note: There will be no gap in benefits for those who were eligible for PEUC or PUA on December 26 since the law implements the extension of benefits effective December 27. 

The big picture: Nine plus months into the pandemic, Austin area unemployment is still 2x pre-COVID levels.

  • Austin MSA’s projected unemployment rose to 5.9% according to TWC’s November report, representing 74,345 jobless residents.

How you can help: You can findmore details on these changes on our website. Feel free to share with your constituents and networks.

Looking ahead: If our Travis County neighbors want to use this time for help with job hunting, training for a new career, or connecting to support services, I encourage them to reach out to us at Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

  • Even amid COVID, we’ve seen strong demand in IT and healthcare to hire workers, and we continue to see strong growth in construction and advanced manufacturing.
  • We’re enrolling now for training in these industries through a program called RE:WorkNOW, a rapid training program for City of Austin and Travis County residents.
    • Phase 1 of RE:WorkNOW will provide 260 scholarships to jobless residents for no-cost, rapid, safe job training, along with cash in their pockets to help people while they train in a virtual or hybrid area.
  • Space is limited. To learn more and apply, visit reworknow.org/austin.


For private entities interested in investing in the early childhood system, a new program will help foster and promote early education efforts and build a strong foundation of support for the future workforce.

  • TWC’s Child Care Industry Partnership (CCIP) program will provide a 100% match for local cash contributions from private employers and corporate foundations.
    • Match dollars will come through state Child Care Development (CCDF) funding.
  • Local Workforce Development Boards will leverage local industry cash donations with state funds, building public-private partnerships to support early childhood programs and systems and expand and support activities that improve early learning and child care.
  • Boards partnering with a corporation/foundation can submit an application to TWC detailing how they would like to invest these funds in local efforts to expand and improve the quality of child care.

How you can help: TWC will provide matching funds to support key quality improvement activities. Let me know if any of these listed activities that we can partner on might interest you.

What’s next: CCIP is scheduled to launch in January 2021, with $5 million in CCDF statewide funds made available on a first-come, first-served basis until funds run out.


The Jeannette Watson Wage Supplement Project is a salary supplement program for child care professionals, funded by the City of Austin, Travis County, and Workforce Solutions Capital Area.

  • Quality, affordable child care services are an essential part of our work to support parents in returning to work or learning new skill sets to pursue a new career.
  • The salary supplement, administered by Workforce Solutions,acknowledgesprofessionals who have completed college coursework in early childhood education and work with children from low-income families.
  • This effort will help our valuable early childhood teachers and directors continue to work in a field where wages are not commensurate with other skilled positions.

Applications are now open! Learn more on our website.

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