CHN: Katrina Survivors Would Get More Unemployment Help Under Senate Bill
More than 35,000 Louisiana hurricane survivors now collecting federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance are due to lose the meager aid this program offers on March 4 if Congress does not act to extend aid. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) co-sponsored legislation (S. 1777) to extend benefits for 13 more weeks, which was passed on a voice vote on February 15. The bill (S.1777) would also reimburse communities for money they spent on emergency supplies for the victims.
The federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance program provides 26 weeks of benefits for self-employed and other workers who do not qualify for state unemployment insurance. The minimum benefit is $98 a week, for those with net annual income of less than $7,857. Louisiana has been paying the minimum to nearly all the workers claiming these disaster unemployment benefits.
The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure reported out a similar but more generous bill (H.R. 4438) in December on a bipartisan basis. The House bill would increase the minimum benefit to $135 a week, extend benefits for 26 weeks instead of 13, and would also cover 20,000 Texas families affected by Hurricane Rita. This bill has not yet been scheduled for a House floor vote.
Neither House nor Senate has yet acted to help the 65,000 Louisiana unemployed who are due to run out of their state UI benefits starting March 11. Congress had passed 13 weeks of Extended Benefits for Louisiana jobless who had exhausted their 26 weeks of state UI benefits, but that will expire on February 26. Unless Congress acts, the unemployed in Louisiana whose state benefits run out after the 26 th will receive no additional help.
For more information about the status of hurricane survivors’ unemployment benefits, see the National Employment Law Project website.