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Disaster Unemployment Assistance Helps Oklahoma Workers

When businesses, offices, worksites and farms are ravaged by a disaster, so is local employment. But many workers impacted by disastrous events can reach for a lifeline called Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA).

Oklahoma workers or self-employed individuals who lost their livelihood as a result of the severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes and flooding from May 5 through June 4 may be eligible for DUA.

Funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and administered by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC), DUA is for those who are not eligible for regular Oklahoma state unemployment insurance.

To be eligible for DUA, workers must be unemployed as a direct result of the disaster. In addition, one of the following conditions of unemployment or inability to perform services in self-employment must have occurred:

  • Worked in, or were scheduled to begin work in, an area declared as a federal disaster area.
  • Were self-employed in, or were scheduled to begin self-employment in, an area declared as a federal disaster area.
  • The individual is unable to work because he/she is injured as a direct result of the disaster;
  • The individual became the major support of the household because the head of the household died as a direct result of the disaster;
  • The individual lost a majority of income or revenue because the employer or self-employed business was damaged, destroyed, or closed by the federal government.

Workers have 30 days to file their claim following the date of public announcement of DUA availability, which the state unemployment office is required to advertise.

Oklahoma deadlines are as follows:

  • July 1, 2015 – Cleveland, Grady and Oklahoma counties;
  • July 6, 2015 – Atoka, Bryan, Comanche, Johnston, Kiowa, Le Flore, McClain, McCurtain, Pittsburg and Pottawatomie counties;
  • July 15, 2015 – Beckham, Caddo, Canadian, Marshall, McIntosh, Seminole and Wagoner counties; and
  • July 20, 2015 – Cotton, Choctaw, Rogers and Tillman counties.

Claims filed after those deadlines will be considered untimely and benefits denied unless the individual can provide good cause for missing the deadline. The first possible week of compensation for DUA purposes is the week ending May 16, 2015, and the last possible week of compensation is the week ending November 28, 2015.

If you believe you may be eligible for DUA, please call the OESC Unemployment Insurance Service Center at 1-800-555-1554, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., to begin the claim process.

When calling to apply for benefits, individuals should have (when possible) their Social Security number available, as well as the name and address of their last employer or prospective employer.

Within 21 days of the date of your claim, individuals must provide documentation verifying employment at the time of the disaster or verification of the weeks the applicant was scheduled to work. Self-employed workers must provide federal income tax forms (Schedule SE and either Schedule C or Schedule F) to receive disaster unemployment benefits.

Individuals looking for jobs or employers in need of workers should contact their nearest Workforce Oklahoma Center. Potential workers and employers can also connect via the OESC website.