Disaster Unemployment Assistance
Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is a federal program that provides financial assistance to people who both:
- Lose or experience interruptions in employment or self-employment because of a major disaster, and
- Don’t qualify for regular state-funded unemployment insurance (UI).
DUA provides temporary benefits to people who lost or experienced interruptions in employment or self-employment as a direct result of a major disaster and don’t qualify for regular UI.
Direct result means that the loss of employment or self-employment is caused by the major disaster itself and not the result of a longer chain of events not directly related to the disaster.
Major disasters are any natural catastrophe (such as a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, snowstorm, flood, etc.) or other type of disaster (such as an explosion, natural gas leak, etc.) that result in a presidential declaration of a disaster.
DUA is not activated in Washington state at this time.
To qualify for DUA, you must have had at least one week of unemployment following the date of the major disaster. You must only claim for weeks when your primary source of income was interrupted. You also must meet at least one of the conditions in Requirement 1 below and all of the conditions in Requirement 2.
Requirement 1: You must have met at least one of the following conditions of unemployment caused as a direct result of the disaster in the areas that are covered by the declaration:
- You were unable to work because your employer’s business was closed as a direct result of the disaster.
- You were scheduled to start a job or work in self-employment, and because of the disaster it no longer exists, or you were unable to reach it.
- You became the breadwinner or major support of a household because the previous head of the household died as a direct result of the disaster.
- You couldn’t work at a job or in self-employment because of an injury caused directly by the disaster.
Requirement 2: You must meet all the following eligibility requirements.
- You were not eligible for regular unemployment benefits in any state or through the Railroad Retirement Board.
- You were unemployed as a direct result of the disaster.
- You were able to work and available for work, unless injured as a direct result of the disaster.
- You filed an application for DUA within 30 days of the date of the public announcement about the availability of DUA.
- You didn’t refuse an offer of employment or self-employment in a suitable position.
Being disqualified or terminated from DUA
You can be disqualified from DUA benefits if any of the following occur:
- You became employed and your earnings exceed the weekly benefit amount allowed under the state’s law.
- You refused to accept suitable employment or self-employment, or a referral to suitable employment or self-employment, without good cause.
- You were not able to work or available for work, unless the inability to work is due to an injury caused directly by the disaster.
- You were not seeking work, unless you’re taking steps to resume self-employment.
- You were no longer unemployed as a direct result of the disaster.
In the event of a disaster, Washington state will publish announcements about the availability of DUA. The announcement will include information on how to file a claim. You must file your DUA application within 30 days of that announcement.
Proof of income and employment
To apply for DUA, you will need to provide proof (e.g., income tax return, bank statements), at the time you became unemployed, of income during the most recently completed tax year and that you were:
- Self-employed; or
- About to start a job on or after the date of the disaster.
If you can’t provide proof of income and employment at the time you file the claim, you have 21 calendar days from the date you file to meet this requirement. We must deny your DUA claim if you don’t submit this proof within the 21 days. You will need to repay any benefits we already paid.
DUA weekly benefit amount
The weekly benefit amount (WBA) for DUA is based on your gross wages. If you are self-employed, the weekly benefit amount will be based on your net earnings (income) from self-employment.
Generally, we calculate your WBA using the same formula we use for UI.
DUA benefit duration
DUA benefits may be paid from the beginning of the week following the date the major disaster began. Benefits generally last through the end of the 26th week after the date the major disaster is declared by the president.
How is DUA triggered?
Based upon the request of a state governor or tribal governor/chief, the president may declare a major disaster in the state. The declaration will define the areas affected by the disaster and may authorize DUA. Public announcements are made in the disaster area advising that DUA is available, providing information on how and when individuals can file for benefits.
When is a presidential declaration of a major disaster made?
A presidential declaration is made when the federal government determines that government assistance is needed for communities directly affected by a disaster. DUA becomes available when the declaration is for “individual assistance including DUA.”
Which agencies manage DUA?
The U.S. Department of Labor oversees the DUA program and coordinates with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the Department of Homeland Security. DUA is administered by state unemployment agencies, such as the Washington State Employment Security Department, acting as agents of the federal government.
Do I need to file weekly claims to receive DUA?
Yes. You must file weekly claims for DUA benefits according to the instructions we give you. You also do not have to serve a waiting week.
How are DUA claims funded?
FEMA provides the funding for DUA benefit payments and the costs for states to administer the program. DUA payments are made by state UI agencies to eligible individuals unemployed as a direct result of the disaster.
Are DUA benefits subject to federal income tax?
Yes. You may elect to have federal withholding deducted from your DUA payments. You will receive Form 1099-G to file with your income tax return.