The relationship between Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) and typical unemployment insurance (UI) can be somewhat confusing. Let us offer some information that will hopefully provide clarification. We will begin with some foundational differences and then explain how the two programs interact.
Regular UI (disaster-related or not) is a program administered by each state or jurisdiction and provides temporary financial relief to an individual who has lost employment through no fault attributable to him/her. This state-based structure accounts for the many differences and nuances we see from state to state.
DUA, however, is a federally funded program created through a partnership between the USDOL and FEMA. As with regular UI, DUA also provides temporary financial relief to an individual who becomes unemployed, but under this program, the loss of employment must result from a disaster. For DUA to be triggered, a Presidential disaster declaration must first be made. A state’s Governor can declare a disaster for a geographic region within a state; however, until and unless a Presidential declaration is made, the DUA program will not be in effect. It is important to note that not all disasters result in a Presidential disaster declaration or the triggering of DUA.
To be eligible for DUA, a worker must be unemployed as a direct result of a disaster and not otherwise eligible for regular UI. Examples might include an individual who already exhausted his/her 26-week UI claim within the same benefit year or a person who is employed in noncovered employment (self-employment). There are other requirements that must be met when establishing a DUA claim. A link for more information on the DUA program can be found at the bottom of this article.
When a person becomes unemployed as a result of a natural disaster, he/she should file a regular UI claim pursuant to state protocol. If he/she is found eligible for regular UI related to the disaster, it will be processed as such. If the claimant is deemed not eligible for regular UI, it will be processed as a DUA claim. In other words, it’s not a matter of do I file for regular UI or DUA—a UI claim should be filed per state guidelines and the UI agency will determine how to process it.
Finally, any UI benefits received under the DUA program will not be charged to any employer (reimburser or merit rated) as they are 100% federally funded. If disaster-related benefits are received under regular UI, those may or may not be charged to a merit rated employer based on the state law in which the disaster occurred. Some states will noncharge a merit rated employer for these regular UI benefits while others do not have such a noncharging provision. Reimbursers are not eligible for such relief of charges stemming from regular UI related to a disaster.
(Special Note: This information came from our friends at EWS.)