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A massive storm hitting all 254 counties of Texas has prompted record wintertime demand for power, hours-long power outages, school closures and a federal emergency declaration.
Local officials are encouraging residents to stay home, conserve energy and avoid driving. Some bundled up Austinites ventured out for a snowy walk Monday morning, where they were greeted with more than six inches of snow in certain parts of town.
A snowboarder takes advantage of the fresh snow on South Congress Avenue. (Austonia staff)
The Willie Nelson statue outside of the Austin City Limits studio got a fresh layer of snow. (Laura Figi)
Kids play outside in Central Austin Sunday evening. (Christa McWhirter)
An Austonia reader submitted this backyard photo on Monday.
Littlefield Fountain at the University of Texas at Austin hadn't yet frozen over Monday morning. (Matt Vermaire)
UT Austin students walk across campus. (Matt Vermaire)
A helpful sign warns passersby of treacherous conditions. (Christa McWhirter)
A homeless camp along Lady Bird Lake was snowed in midday Monday. (Austonia staff)
Drivers venture out in the snow Sunday evening. (Christa McWhirter)
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that Texas will opt out of further federal unemployment benefits related to the pandemic effective June 26, citing the number of current job openings and concern about potentially fraudulent unemployment claims. The benefits include a $300 weekly supplement.
"The Texas economy is booming and employers are hiring communities across the state," Abbott said in a statement. "According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the number of job openings in Texas is almost identical to the number of Texans who are receiving unemployment jobs."
TWC listed 837,273 job openings as of Monday afternoon compared to 226,849 unemployment insurance claims filed statewide between March 31 and May 1. An estimated 1 million Texans were unemployed as of March, according to latest estimates released by the state agency.
Some local business owners, including Doc's Backyard Grill owner Charles Milligan, suspect unemployment benefits are deterring Austinites from returning to work. But others agree with economists who say multiple factors are at play, including health concerns and child care availability.
We're seeing lots of posts about how nobody wants to work right now. Just wanted to share our experience.
We received over 60 resumes for a taproom bartender position we posted last week. Every applicant we've set up an interview with has shown up.
People want 𝘨𝘰𝘰𝘥 work.
— Austin Beerworks (@AustinBeerworks) May 11, 2021
Abbott also cited fraudulent unemployment claims. Between March 2020 and April 2021, TWC received 4.48 million unemployment benefit applications, 611,000 or around 14% of which were tagged as suspicious. Most of those tagged were blocked before any benefits were paid out, according to an April 29 press release.
Federal law requires the effective date of such benefits change to be at least 30 days after the U.S. Department of Labor is notified.
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