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Unemployment in Florida after Hurricane Irma

Author : Steven De Nazareth

Updated : June 12th, 2019

Florida’s economy was strong before the storm and looks to rebound after a short term slowdown and this will have an impact on the state’s budget. The previous lawmakers had projected $52 billion as a surplus and this is a fraction to the $83 billion budget which was destroyed by Irma. The $2.5 billion in losses to agricultural industry in Florida would only increase the stress on the budget as lawmakers look to raise the budget on tourism marketing.

The Labour Department had announced that relatively low four week average nationally rose by 6000 to 268,750. In all, 2 million Americans were left collecting their claims which is 6 per cent lower than a year ago. Initially, in September, jobless claims shot up in Texas and was the most in five years due to Harvey.

In a few weeks time, the claims in Texas fell 45 per cent as more people returned to their regular jobs. On average unemployment is near a 16 year low at 4.4 per cent and this is due to the 176,000 job added every month in 2017. However, this is against 187,000 jobs in 2016 and 226,000 in 2015. With this trend businesses state that this is due to the job market being tight and they cannot find the right workers to fill job vacancies.

However, unemployment claims have doubled since Hurricane Irma ravaged Florida and triggered the largest evacuation in US history of more than a third of Florida’s population. In terms of people 6.5 million had to brave the storm and a large population have suffered serious damage to their property. Hurricane Irma continued to have an impact on the job market in Florida. Moreover, Floridians can apply for their claims till October 31, 2016. This allows them to receive upto $275 a week for a maximum entitlement of 26 weeks till next March.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance

The relief of Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is available to Floridian businesses and residents who has suffered monetary loss in their businesses, self-employed or as an employee due to Hurricane Irma. DUA is applicable to 46 of the 67 counties in the state. Governor Rick Scott announced that Florida received federal Dislocated Worker Grants. This would provide a temporary unemployment assistance to the Floridians and would be administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. This would allow disaster relief in the form of temporary jobs that support storm response and recovery options. This option of short term employment is in regard to providing food, clothing, shelter and other assistance. Additionally, projects like demolition, cleaning, repair and reconstruction are part of the program. People who can apply for disaster relief employment are those who are either temporarily or permanently laid off. This could be due to the disaster, dislocation and long-term unemployment.

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is accepting applications in places Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Clay, Collier, Columbia, DeSoto, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Orange, Okeechobee, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, Sumter, Suwannee, Union and Volusia counties. Since the hurricane hit, 27,500 people have filed claims and this accounts for more than a third which is mainly from Keys, Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Similarly, 1,500 residents in Pinellas County have applied for disaster assistance, 1000 in larger Hillsborough, less than 500 in Pasco and 3000 in Broward County.

You can apply for unemployment benefits at www.floridajobs.org and go to the Apply for Disaster Unemployment section. Most people have received their financial aid in 5 to 10 days time and do not have to be paid back to the government. If you have a small business, you can apply for grants and loans through this site and the final date for enrolment is October 16, 2017.

Classification for DUA

For those that have been affected by the storm and have no other sources of income, the Florida government provides temporary assistance to rebuild the state. Disaster Unemployment Assistance is available to those that have:

  • Employed, self-employed or scheduled to begin work.
  • Not able to work due to damage to the place of employment due to the storm
  • Does not qualify for any unemployment benefits provided by the state
  • Difficulty in working due to injury as a result of the storm
  • Sole breadwinner of the household due to a death in the family

The state government says that applications after the deadline would be untimely and not considered. DUA benefits would be restricted unless the applicant can provide a good cause. Applicant should submit their Social Security Number, provide check stubs and documentation to support the claim that they were working when the storm occurred. They should also provide all documentation within 21 days since the time the DUA application was filed. An important point is that DUA is available only during September 10, 2017 to March 17, 2018.

Financial Relief Programs

Here are five other financial relief programs that could help you balance your checkbook after a big storm:

1. Disaster Unemployment Assistance: Did you lose your job because of Hurricane Irma? If you’re work place was destroyed by the hurricane or you cannot get a job, you can apply for DUA. This is applicable for those that have ‘substantial interruption’ to their business. Floridians can get unemployed benefits between $120 and $275 a week and apply online by October 16, 2017.

2. Student Loan Forbearance:  If you are a victim of the storm in Florida, you will find it difficult to complete your payments by the end of the month. Most borrowers would receive an email from their loan providers about forbearance options. This allows them to reduce payments or receive a break of up to 90 days. You can apply for month extensions if you still have trouble paying.

3. Food Replacement: You may feel extremely over burned with expenses after having to load up on perishables in the fridge during the hurricane season. Unlike the social media post that was doing the rounds about FPL and FEMA reimbursing you for lost food is not true but you can receive food stamps and utilise its other programs to increase your grocery budget. Floridians can also avail of their SNAP benefits and receive a minimum of a 40 percent increase in their monthly allotment to replace lost food. If your food loss is more than this 40 percent increase in your monthly grocery benefits then you should apply for additional funding from the Department of Children and Families.

4. Mortgage or Rent Forgiveness: Hurricane Harvey struck Houston on August 25, 2017 and people were left stranded to pay back their mortgage and rent by the first of the month. In a similar fashion, Hurricane Irma hit Florida but gave them a bit more time to get some finances in place to survive the storm. After the storm, people have lost their jobs and work due to the hurricane and payment for October have not been easy for most people in the region. Authorised lenders have been pressed into service to give you 90 days of relief before the next payment. Additionally, they will connect with your mortgage providers to formalize a forgiveness plan. Renters should connect with their landlords to ask them for more time. In case your rental property was damaged in the storm then you should get in touch with the Florida Legal Services to negotiate on your behalf for a reduced rent payment with your landlord or to move into another property temporarily. Also, you can get in touch with the Miami Community Justice Project via email, text or a letter about letting them know that your rent needs to be paid within the next seven days. Additionally, you should also reach out for FEMA relocation funds when your home is unlivable due to the damage caused by the storm.

5. Overdraft and Late Fee Waivers:  If you have irregular paychecks and high expenses to attend to this month then your overdrawing at the bank can be a real cause of concern. If you are still overcharged for overdrafts or late credit card payments then you should check with your bank as most public companies have waived the fees. This means that overdraft, ATM and late fees have been waived from September 24, 2017 while Bank of America would automatically refund overdrawn balance charges. Similarly, other banks are looking to reach out to their customers by way of waiving fees if they are showing in your account. 

Qualify for Aid

If you are a victim of the storm then you should apply for aid. There are several forms of aid that you can qualify for if you apply within the date prescribed. They are the following:

  • Operation Blue Roof: The US Army Corps of Engineers provides you with a temporary blue plastic sheet that will help reduce subsequent damage to the property until repairs is made. Owners should note that they should apply before October 13, 2017 to apply for assistance and complete the Right of Entry (ROE) form that enables contracts and employees to review the damage and to install this temporary covering on your premises. You can visit www.saj.usace.army.mil/BlueRoof or www.saj.usace.army.mil/blueroof_espanol/ or call 888-ROOF-BLU (888-766-3258). You will be provided information for this service in both English and Spanish.
  • Florida Crisis Cleanup: There are a number of Florida voluntary relief agencies that have a hotline to clear debris and home cleanup. All services are free but services are not guaranteed to all as they are a lot of calls. Survivors that need assistance can call the hotline on 800-451-1954 through Oct. 15.
  • Disaster Unemployment Assistance Application: Floridians are eligible for assistance if they were unemployed as a result of Hurricane Irma and are not eligible for regular unemployment insurance and require unemployment benefits and reemployment services. To avail this deadline, you should apply for your claim and get assistance latest by October 31, 2017. You are eligible for claims from September 10, 2017 till March 17, 2018 and you can file for claims by calling 1-800-385-3920 or visiting https://www.floridajobs.org.
  • Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan: To ensure that your business is not affected by the storm, you can apply for short-term, interest-free loans upto $50,000 for small businesses that have suffered a physical or economical damage. You should apply by October 31, 2017 to avail this service and apply at https://www.floridadisasterloan.org/.
  • Request for Public Assistance: FEMA provides grants for the state, tribal, territorial and local governments and to certain private non profit organisations. This will enable them to quickly respond to and recover from the effects of Hurricane Irma. Those that are eligible for reimbursement for disaster related costs for emergency response, debris removal and permanent work. This includes repairs of schools, roads, bridges and other public infrastructure. Hence, you can visit https://www.fema.gov/public-assistance-local-state-tribal-and-non-profit to apply for assistance.
  • Individual Assistance: Residents can be eligible for FEMA assistance for temporary housing, rent, home repairs to their primary residences and to enable funding for other serious disaster related needs. The easiest way to apply for federal assistance is online at www.disasterassistance.gov. Applications can also be received by calling 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 (TTY). Since the demand is high it can be quite hard to connect with the board. The  FEMA helpline numbers, 800-621-3362 or 800-462-7585 (TTY), are open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • US Small Business Administration Low-Interest Loan: Apart from Insurance, the US Small Business Administration is a primary source of finance for long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. Business owners should apply for disaster assistance with FEMA and they can also apply to SBA for assistance. The filing deadline for physical property damage application of SBA is November 9, 2017. Those that are filing for economic injury applications for SBA is till June 11 and you can apply by visiting https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/Information/Index.Don’t miss the last date to apply for your benefits on the dates mentioned above. If you are affected by Hurricane Irma then you should look get your due with the benefits that the State of Florida is offering you.
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  1. I applied for unemployment on 8-1 and was approved. I received my letter of eligibility and debit card about a week ago. I did not file my intitial bi weekly claim because I missed the deadline by 1 day (didn’t realize they would be closed on Saturday). When I logged on it said I would have to reopen a claim because mine had been closed. I filled out the online form to deactivate the claim. My question is this: will I have another waiting week? And will unemployment have to contact my employer all over again to verify my wages and go through the entire process all over again or will they just reopen the claim with a new date window to file?

  2. Lost my job in 10/2018 due to plant closure, collected vacation and severance pay. Opened a claim in 1/2019. Got an on the job training job through career link in 5/2019 worked one week and became very sick and was off for two weeks VA could not find anything wrong but gave me medication for the symptoms and an excuse to return to work, prior to returning got a call from my recruiter at career link telling me the position was filled so i did not return. Reopened my claim, a few weeks later got a letter informing me the employer had appealed and said i did not return, had a hearing and the employer did not show but i lost and got a 2500.00 over payment. Got a temp job through an agency but have only worked 4 days in two weeks. Reopened my claim and was told i need to earn 2604.00 from current employer before it can be opened, did i do something wrong? Still applying for work but am days away from losing everything, need income to pay bills. PLEASE HELP

    1. Rodney,

      Your eligibility to claim UI benefits depends on multiple factors including monetary eligibility. If you’ve been officially told about the shortage of earnings, there’s nothing much one can do. If you’re still confident of winning the appeal, please make a strong case.

      1. I live in KY but my base wages were from earnings in GA when I lived there. I’ve exhausted my benefits in KY. Am I able to now file through GA since my earnings through 10/18 came from there?

        1. Dee,

          As much as I am aware, Unemployment Insurance is a one time cycle. Please call the Unemployment Office in GA for more.

  3. The hours at work have been cut due to lack of business for every department.
    So all full-time positions are now part-time.
    How do I file for partial unemployment?
    The only options I see (in Texas) are for full unemployment.

    1. Eric,

      You should be able to claim partial UI benefits. Please consider applying online until full hours are restored.

    1. William,

      If everything goes well, it should not take more than 7-10 business days (waiting week). Please call the Claims Center for more.

  4. I was employed by a VA company for 5 years, my contract ended yesterday (07/31/19), however, I worked remotely for those 5 years and live in FL, which state do I apply to for my unemployment benefits?

    1. Oscar,

      Please check with your employer if they remitted UI taxes into the system. Contract workers are generally not eligible.

        1. Oscar,

          In that case, please go ahead and apply if your employer remitted UI taxes into the system.

    2. You apply in Virginia…however, I worked seasonally and they used a ‘quarter’ that was empty, so even though my employer paid in, I only got a 1/3 of what I should have received. Figured that out later :/ They will also question WHY you aren’t able and available to work IN Virginia. They froze my account for about a month.

  5. I worked 37 years with the same company in Texas. On July 2nd of 2018, I was let go due to workforce reduction. I signed up for benefits several months later and now have drawn my 26 weeks of benefit. Is there any program currently open in Texas or federally that will extend additional money while job seeking?

    1. Lonnie,

      The E.U.C(Emergency Unemployment Compensation) remains expired. There is no extension available. Please inquire further with the labor authorities in your state by calling them.

  6. I have been an employee of my company for 34 yrs. My position is being eliminated but I have been offered another position for less money. It is a much more physical job that I am not sure I can perform well. I am 75. If I try to fulfill the position and cannot do it, will I still be able to get benefits if I quit? They want me to try it for a couple of weeks to see if I am strong enough and if I can afford the cut in pay.

    1. Lynda,

      I suggest you call the Unemployment Office to find out about eligibility before making a decision on continuation.

      1. I recently lost my job..i was late for work and they took me off the schedule..never told me i was fired..didnt ask for uniforms back. Another cook was andd has been late for work and he didnt get taken off the schedule.can i still get unemployment?

        1. Kandie,

          Please note UI benefits are only offered to claimants who lose employment due to no fault of their own. You can call the Unemployment Office for clarification.

  7. Are there any training benefits or programs that will pay for an advanced degree, such as a PhD which is needed to become more employable?

    1. There are multiple training programs administered by the Labor Department in each state. For more info, please call visit the official website of the Unemployment Office.

  8. I’m about to exhaust my Unemployment benefits. I was laid off from my first job and
    found employment then I lost my job and became unemployed again. I applied for benefits and have have almost exhausted my benefits but have not found employment. Can I file for an extension?

    1. Deanna,

      The E.U.C(Emergency Unemployment Compensation) remains expired. There is no extension available. Please inquire further with the labor authorities in your state by calling them.

  9. After reading your article it’s still not clear to me about requirements surrounding moving to another state and completing/continuing to collect. I have 8 weeks eligibility left, I am moving from MA to FL. The end of your article says: “Since it’s all virtual (online), you may still consider the option of continuing your claims from the base state even if you move to a different one until completion. As a responsible claimant, it’s your duty to inform the base state about your movement to ensure there are no hassles in the near future.”

    So it sounds like even once I am in new state I am eligible to continue to collect from my base state. I can just continue to do my required weekly job search and reporting to and filing in my base state (I do it via phone call-in). No need to complicate things by doing some crazy state transfer of benefits. Benefits also done via direct bank deposit and no need to change anything. Do I even need to tell my base state I am now living in a new state? Why? Thank you.

    1. Paul,

      For the ease of understanding, each state has its specific rules and laws with regard to administering Unemployment Benefits. It might be an obligation for a claimant to inform about the movement. For clarification, please call the Unemployment Office and speak to a representative.

  10. I was recently fired from my work 25-June-2019/due to me not meeting their “standards/ expectations” i submitted my UE claim on 28-June and have not received any pay as of today, 19-July. The status is currently “adjudication in progress,” my question is, should i be worried this will be denied? I read the FAQ on the UE webpage and it said only a couple applications require the adjudication process. How long does this process usually take to get the final answer of whether I’m denied or approved? The website stated it susuallt takes ~25 days for the adjudication process, does this mean once that’s done then i still have to wait another 2-6 weeks for final processing after? THANK YOU SOO MUCH to whomever is able to provide me with some answers/ input.

    Sincerely,
    Talia
    ** this is my first time ever being fired or having to file for unemployment so i really have nooooo idea what is standard or normal or whatever. I feel like an idiot with my simple questions but it would bring me so much relief having them answered, truly

    1. Talia,

      I can understand your reason for the anxiety. Adjudication is a fact-finding process where both the claimant and the employer will get an opportunity to present their case. During this process, make sure to produce supporting documents that amplify your stance. For all you know, the adjudication can be a lengthy process.

      Best Wishes!

  11. I was permanently severanced from my job due to a Co. Reorg & received my last severance pay last week. I called UE & was told that I should now do my application online since I will no longer be getting funds & still without a job & that this coming Sunday regardless of knowing if I will or will not get benefits yet that I should still file a weekly claim in case of UE back pay.
    So my question is, do I still have to report 4 jobs applied to within this week, even if I do not know if I will be approved/denied for benefits until possibly next week anyway?

    1. Lynda,

      You should continue to report the job applications as long as you’ve been asked to do so. There will be a “Waiting Period” and the first payment will take about 7-10 days after which they’ll flow much quicker. Please call the Claims Center for clarification.

  12. I tried to transfer from one state to another. When I left Montana I was told there would be no problem transferring. When I arrived in North Carolina I had trouble reaching the area manager by phone. When he finally called me back he said to meet him for lunch to discuss when and where I would be working. He did not show up for lunch. Then he never returned any of my calls. I went PA to visit a friend a few weeks later and tried there. I met with the hiring manager and was told there should not be a problem doing the transfer since I was still in the system. I called the store a few times and they said it was still pending. Then I was terminated without even a phone call. Am I eligible for unemployment and if so do I file in Montana or North Carolina. I still have a Montana drivers license but I am living in NC.

    1. Stacey,

      As long as you were unemployed involuntarily, you should be able to claim UI benefits. Please consider applying.

  13. I have worked for 32+ years and recently have become unable to work due to health reasons, so I have had to resign from my job. I have contacted SS and will be able to apply for disability but it will take awhile to process. Can I apply for unemployment benefits? I live in WV.

    1. Sandra,

      UI benefits are only extended to claimants who lose their employment due to involuntary reasons. Please reach out to the Unemployment Office for more.

  14. I had to quit my job at Walmart in Fairmont West Virginia and moved back to my home state ky, I’ve got a son with drug problems and 3 older sisters that are not doing so well in health cause of their age. I didn’t understand about the transfer part they had at Walmart that I could put a date when I could start back because of my car problems I thought when I left I had to go in like in s few days, I’ve applied here at Walmart in Winchester ky 40391 two times already plus dollar store, speedway, truck stop, bp, a few other places it’s been going on 7 months without a job I live with my son and its getting harder on him paying rent and utilities and food, not to mention our personal hygiene stuff I really need help I have no income coming in to help him and his wife out I get foodstamps and Medicaid I was praying I could qualify for unemployment PLEASE HELP!!!

    1. Vicky,

      I can understand your situation. Unfortunately, UI benefits are only extended to claimants who lose employment due to involuntary reasons. Please call the Unemployment Office for further clarification.

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