Disaster unemployment assistance (DUA) is meant to help workers who become unemployed due to the direct impact of a major disaster. These beneficiaries would not otherwise qualify for regular unemployment insurance (UI).
Residents who find themselves out of work for reasons related to the disaster may take advantage of this benefit. The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act authorizes the President of the United States to offer DUA unemployment assistance in areas that have a presidentially declared major disaster. The definition of a disaster by DUA standards includes acts of god such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc. Learn more about disaster unemployment assistance below, including how to apply for benefits and what eligibility requirements you must meet to participate in the program.
Disaster unemployment assistance is necessary because some people will not qualify for regular UI benefits following a major disaster despite losing their employment or self-employment. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recognized the need for a special post-disaster benefit program to help these unemployed workers avoid a financial crisis. Disaster unemployment benefits were included in the amended Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1974.
Related Article: Extended Unemployment Benefits
DOL coordinates with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide funds for the DUA unemployment program. These funds are issued to each state’s UI agency to cover the cost of FEMA disaster unemployment assistance along with the administration costs involved in managing the program. However, FEMA is not directly involved in administering disaster unemployment assistance benefit programs at the state level.
The period of time that an applicant can receive DUA unemployment benefits goes along with the area’s Disaster Assistance Period (DAP). The DAP starts the first day of the week following the date the major disaster started. It continues up to 26 weeks after the president declared the event a major disaster, but you can only submit a DUA unemployment benefit claim as long as your unemployment continues as a result of the disaster. Therefore, the maximum amount of time that you can claim DUA unemployment is 26 weeks.
The amount of disaster unemployment assistance you receive is based on your salary and will vary by individual. It is determined by the rules and provisions regarding unemployment compensation law in the state where the disaster occurred. Generally, the minimum weekly DUA unemployment payout will be half, or 50 percent, of the average benefit amount provided in that state.
Some states will distribute disaster unemployment assistance benefits by direct deposit, while others may use an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. If you have questions about obtaining FEMA disaster unemployment assistance, call (877) 872-5627. Hearing-impaired petitioners may call this TTY number: (877) 889-5627.
To get FEMA disaster unemployment assistance, you must have had your job or self-employment interrupted or cease following the president’s declaration of a major disaster. You must have lived, worked or have been scheduled to work in the disaster area at the time the disaster occurred. Finally, you cannot apply for FEMA disaster unemployment assistance unless you are experiencing one of the following due to the disaster. You:
A person may also qualify to receive DUA unemployment benefits if they are seeking a job as a new head of their household because the former head of household died as a result of the disaster.
A FEMA disaster unemployment assistance application must be filed within 30 days of the announcement that these benefits are available in your state. Information about disaster unemployment assistance is published in disaster-affected states as soon as the DOL makes the announcement. Some states may choose to accept DUA unemployment applications after 30 days, but it is not a common practice.
To submit a claim for DUA unemployment, contact your state’s unemployment insurance agency. If you were evacuated to another state or chose to move to another state, you have the option of contact the UI agency in the state where the disaster occurred or getting DUA unemployment assistance from the agency in your current state.
Each state offers different ways of submitting a disaster unemployment assistance application, but most offer at least two of the following options:
While collecting DUA unemployment, be sure to find out about your state’s job search requirements. If you do not follow all job-searching rules, you put yourself at risk of losing your benefits altogether. Note that some states may choose to exempt DUA unemployment recipients from having to search for a new job during the disaster assistance period.
Although specific documents needed to file a claim for DUA unemployment benefits may vary by state, most will require the following information:
Related Article: Continued Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits