With federal disaster unemployment benefits to victims of Superstorm Sandy scheduled to end this month, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today introduced legislation to extend through July federal disaster unemployment benefits for workers who lost their jobs due to Superstorm Sandy. In New Jersey and other states impacted by Superstorm Sandy, higher than average unemployment continues in the wake of the storm. In addition to extending benefits for workers, the legislation would relieve the burden on businesses for the cost of disaster-related unemployment claims. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
"Superstorm Sandy continues to exact a heavy toll on families and businesses in New Jersey and neighboring states. Many businesses have shuttered or scaled back operations, and tens of thousands of workers have lost their jobs as a result of Sandy," Lautenberg said. "While our state fights to rebuild and recover from this devastating storm, this legislation would help workers and business owners get back on their feet."
"No one can question the devastation Superstorm Sandy has left in our communities," Gillibrand said. "This assistance is a critically needed lifeline for workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own due to Superstorm Sandy. We must extend this program to ensure that our families, businesses, and communities can continue on the road to recovery."
"As the devastating legacy of Superstorm Sandy lingers, this measure would help families and businesses regain their financial footing and well-being," Blumenthal said. "Jobs and economic development would be rebuilt and enhanced."
The "Superstorm Sandy Unemployment Relief Act" would:
provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits to eligible individuals who lost their jobs because of Superstorm Sandy; and
provide federal funding to relieve businesses from having to cover the cost of disaster-related unemployment benefits.
Federal law currently provides for up to 26 weeks of Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) benefits, and Lautenberg's bill would extend the benefits for up to 39 weeks for victims of Superstorm Sandy. DUA benefits, which are 100 percent federally-funded, are available to individuals who have become unemployed as a direct result of a major disaster and who do not qualify for state unemployment insurance benefits. For example, disaster unemployment benefits may be available to self-employed people who lost their business as a result of the disaster, and workers who did not accumulate a sufficient work and wage history before the disaster struck to qualify for state unemployment insurance.
Lautenberg's legislation also addresses the strain on businesses in affected states in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. While DUA benefits are covered by the federal government, regular unemployment compensation paid to individuals who lost their jobs because of Superstorm Sandy is being funded by businesses through payroll taxes. Businesses in disaster-affected states may face increased payroll taxes to cover the additional workers receiving unemployment benefits as a result of Superstorm Sandy. This bill would help to prevent that additional burden on businesses by transferring federal funds to unemployment trust funds in disaster-affected states.
The bill has been endorsed by the National Employment Law Project.
Congress provided assistance to those who lost their jobs because of Hurricane Katrina, and Senator Lautenberg introduced this legislation to provide si