Disaster Unemployment Assistance during California Wildfires
Updated : March 24th, 2023
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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