Disaster Unemployment Assistance during California Wildfires

Updated : August 4th, 2020

How to claim DUA for the California Wildfires

 

California has been ravaged by wildfires for a few days now. Firefighters and emergency services have been striving to contain the blazes as new fires keep breaking out. In Sonoma County, where the Kincade fire has made an enormous hit, life is slowly returning to track, as people look at what comes next. The risk of fires worsening is up since fast blowing winds can spread the embers.

Pacific Gas and Electric Utility shut down power in several counties to prevent fires starting from electrical malfunctions. This outage impacts businesses in a big way, particularly for wage workers and contractors who are directly or indirectly dependent on daily workflow. 



The obvious result of the mass evacuations ordered is the loss of work time. For daily wage workers, this has a severe impact on basics like housing, meals, etc. The power cuts are harsher upon those living in poverty. Those who live upon low savings struggle when they lose employment due to the above reasons.

In contrast, as the wine county has time-sensitive harvest operations, abandoning the area is not an option for those whose survival depends on the industry. Fires always end up choking the air with dust, smoke, and debris, which directly affects a day laborer or domestic worker’s health. The damage to the land takes a long time to recover, and while it does, its former employees must make do by other means. 

There are reports about people being forced to remain in the danger zone for fear of unemployment. Particularly, migrant workers and immigrants have preferred to endanger their safety as they tend to be ineligible for unemployment insurance.

On the upside, previous wildfires have shown an increase in local communities’ employment and labor engagement due to fire suppression and support activities. The post-fire reconstruction may support and spur the local labor market up to an extent.

Counties whose economies are reliant on recreation-based activities generally show a decline in wages and employment, while counties depending on government jobs do not show such an effect. Hazard pay and overtime allowance might increase in fire-associated jobs for a while after a wildfire.

Availing Disaster Unemployment Assistance to cope with California Wildfires

There arises a situation of joblessness during the California wildfires, which has various direct and indirect consequences for workers. Jobless claims have gone up during the end of October, with the largest increase seen in California.

The California Employment Development Department has announced that people losing their wages due to the Kincade fire can apply for disaster unemployment assistance (DUA). Usually, UI benefits are paid out after a waiting period of a week post-filing a claim, but the government has waived it as part of an emergency proclamation. Thus, the claimants receive two weeks of unemployment benefits on their first payment.

As the Kincade fire has not yet been declared as a federal disaster, the self-employed people would not be able to claim unemployment assistance.  

The amounts paid out depend on past earnings and may vary from $40-$450. Claims can be filed online, by phone, mail, or fax. Claimants can call the toll-free number 1-800-300-5616 between 8 a.m and 12 noon (Pacific Time).

If you are owed claims currently and are unable to receive the payments at your regular address, you can contact the local post office. Remember that the DUA deadline is Dec 18, 2019.

 



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  1. My benefits ended Jan. 11, 2020. Will I be eligible for 13 week extension and if so how do I claim in N.J.?

    1. John,

      We understand this might be a difficult time for you. We’re anticipating a shortage of staff across unemployment offices due to the massive surge in UI applications considering the pandemic. We advise against calling or visiting the office, as you may not get a response instantly. Please read more about the situation here https://fileunemployment.org/coronavirus/

      Your state may have activated “Extended Benefits (EB)” authorized by the federal government. We recommend you apply for UI benefits online. For more information, please visit your state’s official Unemployment website.

  2. I have been trying to apply for unemployment,on-line and by phone, for several days. My first attempt was on the day that I was required by last name. I truly understand that there is going to be an extremely large,either by phone or on-line,influs of applicants to complete this process. Following the prompts do not seem to work since I am guided to another section that does not pertain to applying. I am extremely frustrated. I need to complete my unemployment claim. May you please tell me what I need to do?

    1. Edna,

      We understand this might be a difficult time for you. We’re anticipating a shortage of staff across unemployment offices due to the massive surge in UI applications considering the pandemic. We advise against calling or visiting the office, as you may not get a response instantly. Please read more about the situation here https://fileunemployment.org/coronavirus/

      Your state may have activated “Extended Benefits (EB)” authorized by the federal government. We recommend you apply for UI benefits online. For more information, please visit your state’s official Unemployment website.

    1. I am not sure how it works in your state. We suggest you visit the Unemployment Office’s website and learn more about it under the FAQs section.

  3. I am confused, my Illinois unemployment was accepted on March 29th, but I don’t call to certify for benefits until Monday, March 13th. I thought they were waiving the waiting week. Now I have to wait almost 3 weeks for any kind of financial relief? Do I not get the 600 for the care plan? if I do when will that be here? will it be direct deposit? Please help me.

    1. Jennifer,

      Please try finding answers online since there might be limited phone support due to the shortage of staffing. You can use the “Resources” or “FAQs” section of the website.

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