Labor and Employment

The Risk of Unemployment if a Disaster Strikes

Federally funded disaster unemployment assistance is designed to help those whose jobs or businesses have suffered losses due to a disaster. The process begins when a disaster is declared and funds are available for assistance.

In most cases, disaster unemployment assistance requires that the individual is not eligible for other types of assistance or is not already receiving benefits. While disaster unemployment assistance is a federal program, its day-to-day administration involves state governments to a large extent.

State Programs

People who were unemployed prior to the disaster usually continue receiving benefits as long as they have proper identification. Don't leave home without it. Be sure to have all ID papers in one place to take with you as a disaster approaches.

If you are receiving government assistance at the time of the disaster, you may have to change your address to ensure that you continue receiving your benefits.

Don't forget: If you had a job prior to the disaster, contact your employer to find out what you need to do about continuing work or taking time off. If you lost your job due to the disaster, disaster unemployment insurance benefits may be available.

Federal Programs

In the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the federal government provided reintegration counselors to assist in areas with high volumes of evacuees. Using one-stop career centers allowed evacuees to use local educational and employment opportunities to get their lives back to normal as quickly as possible.

One thing to remember is that most benefit programs have application deadlines. Disaster unemployment insurance may be available to self-employed individuals, farmers, and others who ordinarily would not qualify for unemployment. As a general rule, people who are not self-employed or farming could be eligible for the amount of disaster unemployment benefits they would have been eligible for if they were receiving benefits under state unemployment insurance laws.

Disabled Individuals

In the past, to assist individuals with disabilities, the United States Department of Labor has used special on-site personnel in hard-hit areas to help disabled individuals find replacement employment or secure available benefits and services.

How a Lawyer Can Help

We have all seen the aftermath of national disasters, and as the images fade, those still living in the affected areas continue to require assistance applying for benefits, filing insurance claims and replacing lost or damaged property.

A lawyer may be able to assist you in each of these areas with the expertise required to understand the various programs and the rights and remedies available to you. Also, don't forget that as a result of a disaster, personal injury claims sometimes result from the escape of contained toxins or controlled species.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Am I eligible for disaster unemployment insurance?
  • If self-employed or a farmer, how do I prove my income?
  • Is my employer required to hold my job open for me?
  • What do I do if I've lost my identification?
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