Texas AFL-CIO Asks Gov. Abbott to Declare Public Health Emergency Over Coronavirus

Also Asks Workforce Commission to Broaden Eligibility for Unemployment Insurance

The Texas AFL-CIO today asked Gov. Greg Abbott to declare a public health emergency involving COVID-19 to broaden state resources to help sick and healthy Texans alike.

A letter containing the request is attached to the bottom of the news release. The Texas AFL-CIO also sent a letter asking the Texas Workforce Commission to adjust its rules to make more working people who lose their jobs because of the coronavirus eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits.

"An emergency declaration gives state agencies clearer discretion to adjust rules and regulations that may inhibit or prevent prompt response to the coronavirus threat," Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy said. "For our part, we believe a proclamation could help working families who are navigating the health care system amid increasing prospects of job losses."

In 2009, then-Gov. Rick Perry issued an emergency proclamation amid a swine flu threat (scH1N1). Yesterday, the Texas AFL-CIO called for state and employer action to address the spread of the coronavirus and its consequences in workplaces across the state.

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March 11, 2020

The Honorable Greg Abbott
Governor, State of Texas
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, TX 78701

Dear Governor Abbott:

The global pandemic caused by the coronavirus is a physical threat to all Texans and is also threatening the livelihoods of working Texans. We urge you to consider all the policy options at your disposal to meet the medical and economic challenges facing our state as a result of this virus.

Specifically, we ask you to declare a statewide public health emergency under Section 418.014, 418.016 and 418.017 of the Texas Government Code. This would allow state agencies to adjust rules to address the extraordinary circumstances our state is facing. For example, at the Texas Workforce Commission, an emergency declaration could enable the agency to suspend the "work-search" requirement and the one-week waiting period for workers to receive Unemployment Insurance benefits immediately in cases of quarantine or temporary lay-off.

In addition, we ask that you urge businesses to apply for the Shared Work Program, to participate in Unemployment Insurance in the event of temporary layoffs with a return-to-work date, and to expand unemployment insurance eligibility in any other way possible allowed under state or federal law.

Finally, to stem the impact of the novel virus, we ask that you drop your opposition to municipal ordinances that would allow all workers to earn paid sick days. The coronavirus has highlighted that paid sick leave is not just about economics, but about public health as well.

We look forward to cooperating with you in assisting Texas working families in these difficult and trying times.

Sincerely,

Rick Levy, President
Montserrat Garibay, Secretary-Treasurer

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March 11, 2020

Mr. Bryan Daniel
Chairman and Commissioner Representing the Public
Texas Workforce Commission
101 E. 15th St.
Austin, TX 78778-0001

Dear Commissioner Daniel:

The global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 has begun to idle or even eliminate the jobs of working Texans. As state leaders consider policy responses to address the medical and economic issues associated with this virus, we urge you, within your discretion, to remove any obstacles that a Texas worker may encounter when seeking Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits. Specifically, we request that the Texas Workforce Commission exercise any authority it possesses to:

• Waive the "work-search" requirements to qualify for unemployment insurance

• Waive the one-week waiting period for UI benefits

• Urge businesses to apply for the Shared Work Program

• Approve unemployment insurance for temporary layoffs with a return-to-work date, and

• Expand unemployment insurance eligibility in any other way possible allowed under state or federal law

We look forward to cooperating with you and the other members of the commission in assisting Texas working families in these difficult and trying times.

Sincerely,

Rick Levy, President
Montserrat Garibay, Secretary-Treasurer

Cc: Mr. Julian Alvarez, Commissioner Representing Labor
Mr. Aaron Demerson, Commissioner Representing Employers

Placement