BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - Speaking with KBTX on Wednesday evening, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said more help is on the way for doctors, hospitals, workers who worry about losing their job, and families who face an increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19.
He's also expanding the number of staff members who help file unemployment claims in Texas.
Click on the video player to see our interview with Governor Abbott.
The Governor acknowledged the increasing frustrations of Texans who can't reach unemployment representatives on the phone or online due to increased demand for help.
"It is a very real concern that so many people in the state of Texas have lost their jobs and I'll tell you now the best way to get people back employed again is by making sure we stop the spread of COVID-19," said Gov. Abbott.
"Because of the unprecedented number of people who are seeking unemployment benefits, which is about 800,000 people, we have hired
more than 100 additional employees to help process these claims," he said.
"The reason for the slowness is just because of the tidal wave of people making requests. Just know that we're working to expedite those responses as quickly as possible so those unemployed can get their benefits as quickly as possible."
Lawmakers in Washington are close to passing a historic bill that could also extend emergency unemployment insurance. It would include extra weeks of coverage for people who have exhausted existing benefits. It would also cover part-time, self-employed, and gig economy workers.
The Brazos Valley has 28 confirmed cases of the virus and three counties have passed shelter-in-place ordinances to help try and slow the spread.
Nearly 1,000 confirmed cases had been reported by Texas Health and Human Services along with a dozen deaths.
Governor Abbott also thanked President Trump on Wednesday for issuing a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Texas.
This announcement comes after the Governor requested the declaration—citing the need for additional federal assistance to save lives, to protect property, public health, and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of COVID-19.
“Texas is aggressively pursuing and implementing all necessary strategies to limit the impact of COVID-19, and I thank President Trump for his swift action to issue a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Texas,” said Governor Abbott.
“The President’s declaration opens up new sources of funding for individual and public assistance that will help Texas respond to this public health emergency and protect public health and safety.”