California and Oregon are offering its residents “disaster unemployment assistance” due to multiple wildfires that have killed dozens, caused millions of dollars in damage and displaced families across several states on the West coast.
The government defines disaster unemployment assistance as “… a program (that) provides unemployment benefits to individuals who have become unemployed as a direct result of a Presidentially declared major disaster.” President Trump has issued multiple disaster declarations for wildfires in California and Oregon, according to FEMA’s ongoing list.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the entity responsible for distributing payments.
Wildfires on the West Coast Have Killed Dozens & Burned Millions of Acres
The New York Times reported that this fire season, more than five million acres have burned across California, Oregon and Washington. The Times noted that a combination of forest management and climate change has caused an expansion of fires; specifically, global warming has expanded the fire season from roughly one season — the transition from summer into fall — into three — early spring, all summer and late fall.
Vox reported that Portland, Seattle and several cities in California have suffered a severe drop in air quality due to the wildfires. According to NPR, which conducted an analysis of air quality data from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, 50 million residents of California, Oregon and Washington counties “experienced at least one day of ‘unhealthy’ or worse air quality during wildfire season so far this year.”
A California’s Fire Summary reported that more than 17,000 firefighters have been battling 25 fires. The state reported that since August 15, 26 people have died and 7,000 structures have been damaged; since the beginning of the year, the state noted that 8,100 wildfires burned 3.7 million acres in the state. California’s fire monitoring system is showing more than 20 wildfires on its dashboard, many of which are not even located in California.
The National Interagency Fire Center reported that 233 soldiers and 234 marines were deployed to help support fire suppression, and even fire brigades from Canada have helped suppress fires in Northern California and fire brigades from Mexico were working to help contain fires in Southern California.
DUA Is Expected to Help Those Financially Burdened by the Wildfires
Several industries in California and Oregon have been negatively affected by the wildfires. According to the website File Unemployment, California’s Pacific Gas and Electric Utility company shut down power to avoid electrical malfunctions, which not only affected those employers but also businesses relying on that electricity to operate. ” For daily wage workers, this has a severe impact on basics like housing, meals, etc,” the website reported, adding, “The power cuts are harsher upon those living in poverty.”
The website also noted that migrants and immigrants who would be working during a typical harvest season have also been seriously affected and the site noted, “as the wine county has time-sensitive harvest operations, abandoning the area is not an option for those whose survival depends on the industry.”
In Oregon, local news site KEZI reported that the DUA program will especially benefit those who are unemployed, farmers, loggers and others who have a commission-based form of employment and have been affected by the wildfire.
Here is the list of California counties that have been covered by the disaster declaration: Lake, Monterey, Napa, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo. Here is the list of Oregon counties that have been covered by the disaster declaration: Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, and Marion.
Here’s What You Need to Know to Take Advantage of DUA
In order to take advantage of the benefit, you will need to file an application for DUA with your state’s unemployment department within 30 days of when its availability is announced. According to California’s Employment Development Department, the deadline for filing DUA claims in California is September 28. Oregon’s Employment Department reported that the deadline for filing DUA claims in Oregon is October 23, 2020.
According to FEMA, to be considered eligible:
- You must have a “Proof of identity” document
- You must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien
- You must be unemployed or partially unemployed because of the wildfires
- You must have been unable to start work at a determined job because of the wildfires
- The head of your household died from the wildfires and now you are the breadwinner
- You must be ineligible for regular unemployment (and cannot receive any regular unemployment benefits)
- You must be unable to work, barring injury from the wildfires. You also cannot have refused a “suitable” offer of employment
The full fact sheet from FEMA on DUA claims is available here.
In California, DUA benefits will equal a minimum of 50% of average unemployment in the state and those benefits are payable for 26 weeks after a disaster is declared. The application page for DUA claims in California can be found here and the fact sheet for California DUA claims can be found here.
Oregon’s Employment Department has also reported that its DUA benefits will be a minimum of 50% of average unemployment in the state and the application requires proof of income to help determine the appropriate dollar amount. The instructions for filling out the DUA application for Oregon can be found here and the fact sheet for Oregon DUA claims can be found here.