Disaster Unemployment Assistance: How Workers Can Access the Program After Hurricane Sandy


UPDATED Dec. 4, 2012:  Rhode Island announces availability of Disaster Unemployment Assistance. (https://www.ri.gov/press/view/18091)

UPDATED November 9, 2012, to reflect the expansion of DUA availability to include Orange, Putnam, Sullivan, and Ulster counties in New York State.

UPDATED November 9, 2012, to reflect the expansion of DUA availability to all counties in New Jersey.

A fact sheet on federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance available in designated counties in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy.

1.  What is Disaster Unemployment Assistance?

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is a federal program that provides temporary financial assistance to individuals unemployed as a result of a major disaster declared by the President.  Major Disasters were declared due to Hurricane Sandy in certain counties in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York (see list below).  For a current list of the states and counties, see FEMA’s website (http://www.fema.gov/disasters).

States and Initial Counties Impacted:

UPDATED Dec. 4, 2012:  Rhode Island offers Disaster Unemployment Assistance (https://www.ri.gov/press/view/18091)


Fairfield County, Mashantucket Pequot Indian Reservation, Middlesex County, New Haven County and New London County

New Jersey



New York

Bronx County, Kings County, Nassau County, New York County, Orange Country, Putnam County, Queens County, Richmond County, Rockland County, Suffolk County, Sullivan County, Ulster County and Westchester County


2.  What are the basic eligibility requirements for DUA?

There are two major requirements for an individual to qualify for DUA:  1) the individual must be out of work as a “direct result” of a major disaster; and 2) the individual does not qualify for regular unemployment insurance (UI) from any state.  To qualify for DUA, workers must actively look for work and accept suitable work offered them, or if self-employed individuals must be working to get their business back up.  In addition, the individual must show that for every week he or she is collecting DUA, his or her unemployment continues to be the direct result of the disaster, not other factors. [See U.S. Department of Labor website for additional information.] https://ows.doleta.gov/unemploy/disaster.asp

3.  How much are DUA benefit payments?

Like UI benefits, DUA benefits are paid weekly (or biweekly), once an application is completed, filed and processed.  In general, DUA recipients receive the same weekly benefits that they would have been entitled to had they qualified for UI in the state where they were employed.  However, at a minimum, DUA benefits cannot be less than one-half of the state’s average weekly UI benefits (see the state maximum and minimum DUA benefit levels below).

The DUA benefits for part-time workers are generally pro-rated based on the hours they worked as a percent of a 40-hour work week (payment is made in accordance with the state UI law).  Note that DUA benefits are reduced by any other wage-loss compensation, including private insurance, Supplemental Unemployment Benefits, worker’s compensation, and a pro-rated amount of a retirement pension or annuity.


$167 Minimum Weekly Benefit/$648 Maximum

New Jersey

$197 Minimum Weekly Benefit/$611 Maximum

New York

$152 Minimum Weekly Benefit/$405 Maximum

4.  How long will an individual’s DUA benefits last?

The maximum duration of DUA benefits is generally 26 weeks.  However, an individual’s benefits cannot extend beyond the period when the disaster officially ends, which is about six months from the date the federal disaster was declared.  In addition, the DUA benefits cannot extend beyond when the recipient returns to work or self-employment or beyond the period when the individual’s unemployment is no longer directly related to the disaster.

5.  What are some major examples of individuals who can collect DUA?

Those who may be eligible for DUA and typically could not collect regular state UI benefits include:
-Self-employed people who lost their business or suffered a substantial interruption of activities as a direct result of a major disaster;
-Unemployed workers who have become the breadwinner or major supporter of their households due to the death of the head of their household directly related to the disaster;
-Workers unemployed as a result of an injury caused as a direct result of the disaster;
-Workers who cannot reach their employment as a result of the disaster;
-People who are scheduled to start work but became unemployed because they no longer have a job as a direct result of a disaster.

6.  Are workers who did not work in the disaster area also eligible for DUA if their unemployment was still directly caused by the disaster?

According to the federal regulations, the employer or self-employed individual must have received at least a “majority of its revenue or income from an entity that was either damaged or destroyed in the disaster.”  In addition, the individual must continually establish that his or her unemployment remains directly related to the major disaster.

7.  What are the deadlines to apply for DUA?

To qualify for DUA, individuals must normally apply no later than 30 days after the disaster was officially announced by the state (which may be shortly after the disaster was declared by the President).  Late applications can be accepted, but only if “good cause” is shown for the late filing.  However, under no circumstances can DUA applications be accepted after the disaster assistance period ends.

8.  What information is necessary to verify an applicant’s work and earnings?

The state will advise applicants of all necessary information needed to apply for DUA; however, the DUA application requires proof of employment and earnings, as well as a Social Security Number. The proof of employment is due no later than 21 days after the application is filed with the state.  For self-employed applicants, copies of tax returns are required as proof of income and self-employment.  If verification of employment or other documents requested as part of the DUA application are not available, a sworn statement including other forms of verification may be submitted.  Interim DUA payments can take place while the necessary documentation is gathered.  However, the failure to submit the required documentation on time may result in a benefit overpayment which can later be recovered from the individual by the state.

9. Where can an individual apply for DUA?

Each state may process DUA somewhat differently.  Most states will process applications by telephone, as part of their automated claims-taking process for regular state UI benefits, and some state DUA applications may be processed via the Internet.  For the latest information on how to file in the states declared disaster areas as a result of Hurricane Sandy, we recommend that individuals regularly check recent postings on the state’s Department of Labor website.  Below is a listing of the contact numbers and website addresses for the state agencies that process DUA and state UI claims.



page has link to phone numbers for filing in different locations in the state

New Jersey


or by phone:

North Jersey (201) 601-4100

Central Jersey (732) 761-2020

South Jersey (856) 507-2340

New York


Phone numbers for filing:


or 1-877-358-5306 if you live out of state

UPDATED Dec. 4, 2012:  Rhode Island offers filing assistance for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (https://www.ri.gov/press/view/18091)

The National Employment Law Project is a non-profit organization that advocates for unemployed workers.  The information provided with this fact sheet is based on the best resources we have available on the DUA program.  However, it should not be relied upon as source of official government information on the DUA program.

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