In recent days, multiple areas in California have been ravaged by fast-moving, wind-driven wildfires. According to the most current statistics from Cal Fire, five fires in the state have yet to be 100% contained, over 244,000 acres have been burned, at least 10,756 structures (including homes and commercial buildings) have been destroyed and 59 people have died. These devastating losses have left thousands of people unable to generate any kind of income.
On Wednesday, November 14, 2018, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) published a press release announcing Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is now available for those affected by fires in Butte, Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.
Who is eligible?
Workers, business owners and self-employed individuals who lost their jobs or businesses, or had their work hours substantially reduced as a result of the Camp Fire in Butte County, Hill Fire in Ventura County and Woolsey Fire in Ventura and Los Angeles counties are eligible to receive Federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) benefits.
DUA applies to losses beginning the week of November 11, 2018, and individuals can receive up to $450 a week in benefits for a maximum period of 26 weeks. These unemployment assistance benefits are offered to victims of a disaster and are available to individuals who meet any of the following criteria:
- Worked or were self-employed, or were scheduled to begin work or self-employment, in the disaster area.
- Cannot reach work because of the disaster or can no longer work or perform services because of physical damage or destruction to the place of employment as a direct result of the disaster.
- Can establish that the work or self-employment they can no longer perform was their primary source of income.
- Cannot perform work or self-employment because of an injury as a direct result of the disaster.
- Became the head of their households because of a death caused by the disaster.
- Have applied for and used all regular unemployment benefits from any state, or do not qualify for regular unemployment benefits and remain unemployed as a direct result of the disaster.
When should claims be filed?
Affected individuals are encouraged to apply for DUA through the California Employment
Development Department (EDD) as soon as possible. EDD will first check to see if applicants can qualify for state unemployment benefits before accepting a DUA claim. The deadline for filing claims is December 14, 2018. After this date, the claim will not be considered timely and will not be honored.
How can claims be filed?
Claims are being taken by the EDD via their UI Online system or by calling 1 (800) 300-5616 (English) between 8:00 am and 12:00 pm Monday through Friday. Phone numbers for claimants who need assistance in another language can be found here.
To receive DUA benefits, all required documentation must be submitted within 21 days from the day the DUA application is filed. Required documentation includes a Social Security number and a copy of the most recent federal income tax form or check stubs, or documentation to support that the individuals were working or self-employed when the disaster occurred. Documentation for the self-employed can be obtained from banks or government entities, or affidavits from individuals having knowledge of their business.
DUA benefits are only payable during the Disaster Assistance Period (DAP) not to exceed 26 weeks. More information on the DUA program can be found in the EDD’s press release and on the U.S. Department of Labor’s DUA page.
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