AUSTIN, Texas - Unemployed Texans are set to lose their weekly $600 benefit from the CARES Act. The benefit is scheduled to expire Saturday for Texans and next week for all Americans.
Union leaders and advocates gathered outside the Texas Workforce Commission Friday, demanding legislators act fast as unemployed people struggle to make ends meet.
Eva Estrada took to the podium to share her story. She worked for the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport for four years as a utility worker and when the pandemic hit the travel industry she was let go. Estrada was able to receive unemployment benefits in April.
Estrada said with unemployment she’s able to afford food and bills and without the extra $600 a month, she will be left unprotected, potentially homeless.
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“We have 30 million workers in the US who are surviving off of these unemployment benefits. $600 is not even enough,” said Yvonne Cortez Flores, President of the American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees. “The bottom line is when workers and Texans are down and out. Where is the help? If we cannot depend on these Texas senators to help their own constituents then it is time to put them on the unemployment line.”
The music industry is one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. Joe Martin with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees advocated for the Heroes Act.
“For stagehands and entertainment workers here in Austin and all across the country on March 15th we basically received a death sentence for our industry,” said Martin.
The Heroes Act is a comprehensive coronavirus relief act awaiting a Senate vote. However, Congress has yet to approve a new coronavirus relief package. State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez urged Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn to move forward on economic relief aiding people who are unemployed.
“John Cornyn, do your job, do your job, that is why you were there and if you’re not going to do your job come November, we will have somebody else do your job for you,” said Rodriguez.
A spokesperson with Sen. Ted Cruz’s office released this statement:
“Democrats’ preferred outcome of continuing their arbitrarily expanded unemployment compensation would only further prolong the economic devastation we have seen and make it more difficult for small businesses to keep their doors open and rehire the millions of hardworking men and women who have lost their jobs. As Sen. Cruz has repeatedly said, Congress should be focused on helping Americans safely return to work and restoring hope and optimism across the country – not keeping the economy shutdown by paying people more to stay at home and not work.”
The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations is encouraging Texans to contact their local senator and show support for the Heroes Act.
FOX 7 Austin is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com.