U.S. Senator Frank Launtenberg, D-NJ, introduced a bill Tuesday that would extend unemployment benefits to workers who lost their jobs due to Hurricane Sandy, and also help relieve the burden on businesses for disaster-related claims, his office announced.
The Superstorm Sandy Unemployment Relief Act is being co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut. The bill is designed to mirror aid provided by Congress to those who lose their jobs following Hurricane Katrina, Lautenberg said in a release.
According to a release, the “Superstorm Sandy Unemployment Relief Act” would:
- provide an additional 13 weeks of Disaster Unemployment Assistance, or DUA, benefits to eligible individuals
- provide federal funds to states to cover the cost of paying unemployment benefits to individuals who lost their jobs because of the disaster.
“Superstorm Sandy continues to exact a heavy toll on families and businesses in New Jersey and neighboring states. We're seeing businesses forced to shutter or scale back operations, and many workers have lost their jobs,” Lautenberg said in a statement. “While the state fights back from this devastating storm, this legislation would help workers and business owners get back on their feet.”
DUA benefits are entirely federally funded and are available to those who have become unemployed as a direct result of a major disaster but do not qualify for state benefits. Federal law currently provides for up to 26 weeks of DUA benefits, and Lautenberg's bill would extend the benefits for up to 39 weeks for victims of Sandy.
In addition, Lautenberg's legislation would address the strain placed on state unemployment trust funds in the wake of Sandy. While disaster unemployment benefits are covered by the federal government, regular unemployment compensation is 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 Sandy, Lautenberg said.
This bill would help to prevent that additional burden on businesses by transferring federal funds to unemployment trust funds in disaster-affected states.