President Obama recently declared disaster areas in Illinois because of severe storms, straight-line winds and tornadoes that occurred on November 17, 2013. Subsequently, employees and self-employed individuals who lost their jobs or incomes as a direct result of the disasters might be eligible for unemployment benefits in the form of 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. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrates DUA and other federal disaster aid.
DUA is currently active in the declared disaster areas of Illinois and it pays up to 26 weeks in unemployment benefits per person.
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 income due to a disaster and meet the other eligibility requirements.
To file a claim for DUA (or standard state unemployment benefits) in Illinois, contact the state unemployment office (Illinois Department of Employment Security) 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. If damage is widespread or state unemployment offices are closed due to damage, then DUA might be available for longer period of time.
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 call 800-462-7585 through their TTY devices.
Beware of scams! Con artists often 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.
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.