Sandy victims may qualify for Disaster Unemployment Assistance

Jen A. Miller picture

Small business owners and the self-employed, listen up.

If you or your business was affected by Hurricane Sandy, you could be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance is a special federal relief program that provides unemployment benefits and services in the wake of a major disaster. Unlike state unemployment benefits, this aid is not meant just for those who worked for someone else.

Instead, it helps those who wouldn't be eligible for state benefits: small-business owners whose businesses are interrupted or damaged and the self-employed who lost their businesses or are unable to work.

It's also available to those who become unemployed because of an injury from the storm; those who can't reach their jobs because of storm damage; those who were supposed to start jobs at places that no longer exist because of the storm; and the unemployed who become the major support of their households because of the death of the head of household as a result of the disaster.

Benefits start on the date you were first unemployed because of Sandy and can extend up to 26 weeks, according to FEMA.

You must apply by Dec. 3, although there are some exceptions for those who have trouble getting paperwork because of the storm.

Even though this is a federal program, you still must apply through your state's Department of Labor, and you must have worked or lived in an area that's been declared a federal disaster area.

For this storm, that includes:

The reason victims of Sandy are asked to apply through their state is that some people will be eligible for state-level unemployment assistance.

This federal program is a backup for those who aren't covered by their state's programs.

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