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The Athens East Texas Workforce Solutions office is closed to the public, but state agencies are working to keep as many on the job as possible.

"We made some changes and canceled quite a few events, but we're still available as employers try to work through this crisis" said Lindsey Vanderbilt, East Texas Council of Governments Director of Communications.

Essential information for job seekers has been placed outside the Athens office on Murchison Street. Vanderbilt said most of that material is also available online.

Workforce Solutions East Texas is one of 28 located throughout the state. The East Texas division serves Henderson, Van Zandt, Rains, Wood, Upshur, Camp, Marion, Harrison, Panola, Gregg, Rusk, Cherokee, Anderson and Smith counties. The East Texas Council of Governments serves as the administrating agency of the Workforce Solutions East Texas Board.

Texas Comptroller Glen Heger said this week, the unemployment rate in Texas is on track to more than double that as the coronavirus spreads.

“It’s up to probably 9%,” Hegar said, speaking on air to the Texas Standard. “And I have no doubt that people are going to start forecasting it’s going to be slightly in the low double digits.”

A spokesman for the comptroller's office later clarified that the unemployment rate is not currently at 9%, but that is where economic research firms have moved their forecasts.

The Texas Workforce Commission released unemployment figures on Friday for the month of February. The numbers don't yet reflect the effects of the COVID-19 effects on the economy. Texas had an adjusted rate of 3.5%. Henderson County's rate was 3.6%.

During the time of economic distress, the TWC is inviting employers to enroll in Shared Work program as an alternative to layoffs. Shared Work allows employers to supplement their employees’ wages lost because of reduced work hours with partial unemployment benefits. Under the program employers can reduce normal weekly work hours for employees in an affected unit by at least 10 percent but not more than 40 percent. Shared Work unemployment benefits are payable to employees who qualify for and participate in an approved Shared Work Plan. Workers may choose not to participate. Employees who qualify will receive both wages and Shared Work unemployment benefits.

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