President Obama recently declared disaster areas in Oklahoma and Texas because of severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding during the periods of May 5-10, 2015 for Oklahoma and May 4, 2015 for Texas. Subsequently, individuals who lost their jobs or self-employment incomes as a direct result of one or more of the disasters might be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance.
Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is a special program funded by the federal government that becomes active, if needed, after the President of the United States has declared one or more major disaster areas in a state.
If DUA is active in one or more of the declared disaster areas, it pays up to 26 weeks in unemployment payments per person if requested by the governor. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrates DUA and other federal disaster aid.
Employees who have lost their jobs as a direct result of the disasters in the declared areas might be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance, if they’re not eligible for standard state unemployment benefits. Because self-employed individuals typically aren’t eligible for standard state benefits, DUA also covers those who have lost their incomes due to a disaster and meet the other eligibility requirements.
To file a claim for DUA (or standard state unemployment benefits) in Oklahoma or Texas, contact the state unemployment office or a full-service One-Stop Career Center. Don’t delay for long in filing your DUA claim, as the window is typically open for only 30 days after DUA becomes available. However, if a disaster is extremely severe or unemployment offices or one-stops are closed due to a disaster, then the federal government might extend the deadline.
To apply for other disaster assistance, see Apply for Assistance at FEMA or call 800-621-FEMA (3362). Disaster victims who have speech or hearing impairments may apply for other disaster assistance by calling FEMA at 800-462-7585 through their TTY devices.
Beware of scams! Con artists attempt to exploit victims by charging bogus fees for filing DUA claims. Filing a DUA claim is always free, as is filing a claim for standard state unemployment benefits. Never pay a fee, no matter how “governmentally official” or unsuspecting the so-called “offer” seems. There are several other disaster recovery scams to avoid, too. See also Justice Department Officials Raise Awareness of Disaster Fraud Hotline.
If you have limited means and need legal assistance as the victim of a disaster or a related scam, some local lawyers volunteer to help victims by charging no fees or only small fees. A free lawyer referral service might be able to help you find such a lawyer, as might a non-profit legal-aid organization in your state.
- American Red Cross
- Disaster Help and Resources
- Low-Interest Disaster Loans
- Salvation Army
- What You Need to Know When the Power Goes Out Unexpectedly
EmployeeIssues.com has updated this post as more information became available. The last update of significance (adding of Texas) was on 5/30/15.