Last Updated: April 14 at 10:57 a.m. 

REALTORS® who are independent contractors or self-employed and are unable to earn an income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible for disaster-related unemployment benefits. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is the state agency that administers unemployment benefits in our state. The TWC began disbursing disaster-related funds on April 12, with $183 million disbursed. The following suggestions are intended to help REALTORS® navigate the application process.

Two Funding Resources for REALTORS® Affected by COVID-19

There are two types of disaster-related unemployment benefits available until certain dates, so REALTORS® are advised to apply as soon as possible to take advantage of the funds.

  1. Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
    • Provides $600 per week for either up to 13 weeks or until July 31, whichever comes first
    • No income limit
  2. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
    • Provides between $207 per week (minimum) and $521 per week (maximum) for up to 39 weeks
    • Program expires Dec. 26, 2020

To increase the amount beyond the minimum, self-employed/independent contractors who apply should also submit income verification documents (1099, Schedule F, C, or SE) to sanantonio.uimail@twc.state.tx.us.

Applicants are automatically enrolled in both programs and can receive FPUC and PUA funds simultaneously.

Follow These Steps to File Online

Please note that the TWC’s system wasn’t designed to accommodate independent contractors, so some of the questions or terminology in the application may not apply to you as a REALTOR®. Complete the application as it best describes your situation.

  1. Visit the TWC’s webpage.
  2. Create an account—you’ll need a user ID and password to file for unemployment.
    a. From the homepage, find the Quick Links list in the blue bar near the top, click “Unemployment Benefits Services” on the list. From the Unemployment Benefits Services page, click “Log on with your existing TWC User ID or create a new User ID” and follow the steps to create a new user ID (if you don’t already have an account).
    b. Here’s a link to the page for creating a new user ID. 
    c. Here’s a TWC tutorial on creating a user ID with screenshots from the website.
  3. Complete the application.
    a. The Unemployment Benefits Services page includes a link to “Apply for Benefits.” 
    b. The TWC created this tutorial that provides general guidelines.
    c. Under “Reason No Longer Working,” select “Disaster” and indicate in the details that you were affected by COVID-19.
  4. When prompted to add your last employer’s business name, indicate SELF if you are self-employed or if you classify yourself as an independent contractor. You are self-employed if you use IRS Form 1099 to report income. Learn more about unemployment for independent contractors on our Legal FAQs page. 
  5. Once you have submitted your application, you’ll receive information about next steps, requirements, and instruction. Check out the TWC’s list of “Next Steps,” such as setting up a PIN, signing up to receive important messages, and choosing a benefit payment method.

Why You May Receive an Initial Denial

The Texas Workforce Commission’s system automatically searches for an applicant’s reported W-2 income, so you may receive a message that your application is denied because you had $0 reported last year. This is because the TWC’s system was not designed to accept applications from independent contractors/self-employed individuals. Commission staff advises those applicants to ignore the initial denial letter, which is automatically generated and titled “Statement of Wages and Potential Benefit Amounts.”

Check Your TWC Inbox Often

Once you have applied, be sure you’re receiving messages through the TWC website by logging on the system directly or by selecting “Electronic Correspondence” from the Unemployment Benefits Services page menu. This free service allows you to receive unemployment notices and forms electronically in a secure, online mailbox. Check these messages frequently—information about your claim will be sent here. You are responsible for regularly checking for these messages.

You Must Request Payment

The Texas Workforce Commission will not automatically send you payments—you must request payment through the commission’s system every two weeks online or by phone. Do not wait for the TWC to notify you of your eligibility.

If you applied before April 9, 2020, you will be automatically enrolled in the federal programs; however, you should submit a request for payment before waiting for the TWC to notify you. 

Select Your Payment Option

Choose a benefit payment method to receive funds: either direct deposit—the preferred, faster method—or a debit card.

You can change your payment option online or by phone:

  • Log on to Unemployment Benefits Services and select Change Payment Option from the Quick Links menu.
  • Call Tele-Serv at 800-558-8321 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and select option 5.

Funds are Taxable

Unemployment benefits are taxable, so the TWC will send you a 1099 to report the income on your 2020 federal income taxes next year. Recipients may wish to consider withholding a percentage of the funds for tax purposes.

Keep Trying

The TWC’s online and phone systems have been inundated with applicants, so it may take time to complete your application. The commission is increasing its capacity and staffing to expedite the application process and have advised applicants to keep trying until they are able to successfully apply and request funds.

The Texas Workforce Commission’s help line at 800-939-6631 is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central, seven days a week.