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Does a natural disaster make former employees eligible for unemployment benefits?

by on
in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Q. We had to close down our business because of the damage caused by a natural disaster. Are our employees entitled to unemployment benefits?

A. California law provides that a worker who is discharged may be eligible for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits provided that specific criteria are met. Workers who are unemployed due to a disaster or emergency may also be eligible for UI benefits.

In addition, if the president of the United States declares a disaster in your area, payment of Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) may be authorized. Individuals who become unemployed as a result of the disaster, and who do not qualify for regular UI benefits, may file for DUA.

DUA is generally available to any unemployed worker or self-employed individual who lived, worked or was scheduled to work in the disaster area at the time of the disaster; and due to the disaster:

  • No longer has a job or a place to work
  • Cannot reach the place of work
  • Cannot work due to damage to the place of work
  • Cannot work because of an injury caused by the disaster.

An individual who becomes the head of household and is looking for employment because the former head of household has passed away as a result of the disaster may also qualify for DUA benefits. One difference between DUA benefits and UI benefits is duration. DUA benefits are payable only for weeks that fall within the Disaster Assistance Period (DAP). The DAP begins with the first day of the week after the date of the disaster and ends 26 weeks after the date the disaster was declared.

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