Unemployment and Hurricane Sandy

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[author:  Jennean Rogers]

As residents and businesses in New York,New Jersey, and Connecticut attempt to rebuild after the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy many find themselves without jobs as a result of Sandy devastation. Businesses have been flooded or completely destroyed leaving many out of work indefinitely. So what do the suddenly unemployed do to make ends meet? Fortunately, some companies have offered employees the opportunity to work at other locations. But for those individuals without such an option relief needs to be sought in a different manner.  One such avenue is Disaster Unemployment Assistance. Unemployed individuals may seek disaster assistance payments if they lost their job as a direct result of the storm.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance also known as Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance provides individuals unemployed as a result of a major disaster with temporary financial assistance. The President issued a federal disaster declaration on October 29, 2012 for several counties in New Jersey,New York, and Connecticut in response to Hurricane Sandy. Such a declaration grants residents of these locations the opportunity to seek federal assistance. However, to qualify for assistance the loss of employment must have resulted directly from the disaster and the individual cannot be eligible for traditional unemployment benefits. Additionally, those receiving funds must actively look for work and if suitable work is offered they must accept. Each week the individual must demonstrate that his or her unemployment continues to be a direct result of the disaster. Payments can last up to 26 weeks or six months after the date the federal disaster was declared.

The New York State Department of Labor has listed the following situations as qualifying for Disaster Unemployment Assistance.

  • “You were injured in the disaster and are unable to work, whether you are an employee or self-employed.”
  • “Your workplace was damaged, destroyed, or you can’t get there because of the disaster.”
  • “Your transportation to work is not available because of the disaster.”
  • “You must travel to your job through the affected area, and you cannot do that because of the disaster.”
  • “You were about to begin work, but could not because of the disaster.”
  • “You are now the breadwinner or major support for a household because the former head of household died in the disaster.”
  • “You are out of work because the Federal government took over or closed the facility where you worked.”
  • “Most of your income comes from areas affected by the disaster, whether you worked for yourself or for an employer, and your business is down as a direct result of the disaster.” [1]

A special thanks to Cynthia Thomas, a law clerk at Cullen and Dykman LLP, for helping with this post.

  1. [1] Fact Sheet, Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) Due to Effects of Hurricane Sandy, New York State Department of Labor, available at http://www.labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/ui/P814.pdf.