WASHINGTON, D.C—Today, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced legislation to extend disaster unemployment benefits to workers who lost their jobs due to Superstorm Sandy, and to help relieve the burden on businesses for disaster-related unemployment claims.
Congress provided assistance to those who lost their jobs because of Hurricane Katrina, and Lautenberg introduced the “Superstorm Sandy Unemployment Relief Act” to provide similar relief to families and businesses affected by Superstorm Sandy. The legislation is cosponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
“Superstorm Sandy continues to exact a heavy toll on families and businesses in New Jersey and neighboring states. We’re seeing businesses forced to shutter or scale back operations, and many workers have lost their jobs,” Lautenberg said. “While the state fights back from this devastating storm, this legislation would help workers and business owners get back on their feet.”
The “Superstorm Sandy Unemployment Relief Act” would:
- provide an additional 13 weeks of Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) benefits to eligible individuals; and
- provide federal funds to states to cover the cost of paying unemployment benefits to individuals who lost their jobs because of the disaster.
Disaster Unemployment Assistance benefits, which are 100 percent federally-funded, are available to individuals who have become unemployed as a direct result of a major disaster and who do not qualify for state unemployment insurance benefits. For example, disaster unemployment benefits may be available to self-employed people who lost their business as a result of the disaster, and workers who did not accumulate a sufficient work and wage history before the disaster struck to qualify for state unemployment insurance. Federal law currently provides for up to 26 weeks of DUA benefits, and Lautenberg’s bill would extend the benefits for up to 39 weeks for victims of Superstorm Sandy.
In addition, Lautenberg’s legislation would address the heavy strain being placed on state unemployment trust funds in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. While disaster unemployment benefits are covered by the federal government, regular unemployment compensation is funded by businesses through payroll taxes. Businesses in disaster-affected states may face increased payroll taxes to cover the additional workers receiving unemployment benefits as a result of Superstorm Sandy. This bill would help to prevent that additional burden on businesses by transferring federal funds to unemployment trust funds in disaster-affected states.