Disaster Unemployment Assistance
About the Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program
Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is a special program that provides unemployment benefits to eligible workers and self-employed individuals who've become unemployed or can't work as a direct result of a major natural disaster. Qualifying disasters include severe rain, snow and ice storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, straight-line winds, mudslides, wildfires, earthquakes, and tsunamis (tidal waves).
The DUA Program becomes active, if warranted, after the President of the United States officially declares one or more major disaster areas in a state (or U.S. territory or possession). The damaged state may then request DUA funds from the Federal government.
The Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program is administered by state unemployment offices as agents of the Federal government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) pays the funds to declared disaster states in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
Disaster Unemployment Assistance Eligibility
Because Disaster Unemployment Assistance is a special Federal program, eligibility requirements differ from those of standard state unemployment benefits. To be eligible for DUA, among other requirements, you must be ineligible for standard unemployment benefits (or an extension of standard unemployment benefits) from any state. If a natural disaster makes you eligible for standard benefits, then you'd collect those instead of DUA.
Below is a summary of other Disaster Unemployment Assistance eligibility requirements, paraphrased from those listed by the U.S. Department of Labor. To be eligible, you must meet one or more of the requirements depending on your circumstances.
- Worked or was self-employed, or was scheduled to begin work or self-employment, in a declared disaster area
- Can no longer work or perform services because of damage or destruction to your place of employment as a direct result of a disaster
- Cannot perform work or self-employment because of an injury or incapacitation as a direct result of the disaster
- Cannot work or perform self-employment due to closure of a facility by the Federal government as a direct result of a disaster
- Lost a majority of income or revenue because your employer's or your own place of business was damaged, destroyed or closed by the Federal government as a direct result of a disaster
- Establish that the work or self-employment you can no longer perform because of a disaster was your primary source of income
- Became the breadwinner or a major support contributor of a household, because the head of the household died as a direct result of a disaster
To determine your final eligibility for either standard unemployment benefits or Disaster Unemployment Assistance after a natural disaster, you must file an official claim with the relevant state unemployment office or a full-service One-Stop Career Center.
Ordinarily, you'll have only 30 days to file a claim for Disaster Unemployment Assistance after it becomes available. So, it's a good idea to file your claim as soon as it's practical, even if you don't have the supporting paperwork at hand. After filing, you'll ordinarily have 21 days to provide the paperwork. If damage is severe or widespread, the DOL might extend DUA deadlines as it has before.
If one or more state unemployment offices or One-Stops are closed because of damage, then the agencies typically set up temporary offices to take claims for standard unemployment benefits and Disaster Unemployment Assistance. Even if none are closed, the agencies often set up special hotlines and online services for those who can't file claims in person, and to better handle the increase in claims after a disaster.
Disaster Unemployment Assistance Benefits
Disaster Unemployment Assistance benefits are similar to those of standard unemployment benefits, both of which provide weekly compensation and re-employment services. The maximum weekly compensation dollar amount is determined by each state, according to the provisions in its unemployment laws and related regulations.
For example, if the maximum weekly compensation for standard unemployment benefits in your state is $330, then the maximum weekly amount for Disaster Unemployment Assistance is likely to be the same or close.
In addition to providing Disaster Unemployment Assistance, state unemployment offices or One-Stop Career Centers might schedule special job fairs for disaster-unemployed workers to land replacement jobs. The agencies might also offer what are commonly referred to as "cleanup jobs," so that disaster-unemployed individuals may temporarily earn wages while contributing to recovery, rebuilding and humanitarian efforts.
For information about post-disaster help in addition to Disaster Unemployment Assistance, start by browsing Apply for Assistance at FEMA's Web site. See also Disaster Assistance, an official government site.