Since Hurricane Harvey, we have received questions from districts about how to respond to disaster unemployment claims they have received after the storm. Learn about what to do if you receive these claims.
Q: Do we need to respond to these disaster unemployment claims?
A: Yes, you do need to respond to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). Tell them whether or not the employee was paid for the time off. Any determinations that grant benefits to any class of employee who will be paid their regular wages for time off during school closure should be appealed.
According to the TWC, they will not move to Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) until a regular claim is exhausted. There is also a level of proof the claimant will have to submit. An ordinary substitute teacher/temp who is out of work right now is going to be treated as any other substitute teacher/temp not working in between assignments, for which they will receive benefits. Visit the TWC Unemployment Assistance page for more information.
Here is some of the information TWC provides:
If an employee is eligible for regular benefits, we must pay those benefits before taking a DUA application.
Employees may be eligible for DUA if one of the following occurred as a direct result of the disaster:
- They lost their job, which was more than 50% of their total income.
- They live in, work in, or travel through the disaster area.
- Their place of employment was damaged or closed.
- They were scheduled to start work but the job no longer exists or they can no longer reach the new job.
- They suffered injury or incapacitation.
- They became the breadwinner or major support of the household due to the death of the head of household.
DUA is available only during the Disaster Assistance Period, which begins with the first Sunday following the date that the major disaster is declared. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and DUA regulations determine when the Disaster Assistance Period begins and ends. As of now, there is no set DUA claim period, as people could still be unemployed for weeks.
Temporary and seasonal workers are only eligible for DUA for the weeks that they would have been employed if the disaster had not occurred. For example, if a seasonal worker was scheduled to work for four weeks after the disaster and then under normal circumstances would be terminated, that worker would be eligible only for four weeks of DUA.
Applying for DUA
TWC must find out whether you are eligible for regular benefits before you can receive DUA.
Assuming that DUA is the same as help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). You must apply for FEMA assistance through FEMA, not TWC. Visit the FEMA webpage for more information.
Contact TASB Risk Management’s UC Attorney James Ezell at 800.482.7276, ext. 2857 with questions.