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I lost my job or I cannot work because of a natural disaster

Produced by Western Massachusetts Legal Services and Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed September, 2021

  If you lost your job or cannot work becuase of a natural disaster, you may be able to get:

DUA is a federally-funded program that is intended to provide assistance to individuals whose employment has been lost or interrupted as a result of a major disaster. Federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance benefits are available to help those who are jobless as a result of a disaster and who are not eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance benefits.

If you are a wage-earning employee or self-employed , you may be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance if:

  • You experienced one or more weeks of unemployment during the Disaster Assistance Period. 
  • The unemployment was/is a direct result of the major disaster in an affected county.
  • You have applied for regular unemployment insurance and it has been determined that you are not eligible for regular unemployment; and
  • You file an application for Disaster Unemployment Assistance.

In order to qualify for Disaster Unemployment Assistance, your employment or self-employment must have been lost or interrupted as a direct result of a major disaster declared by the President of the United States.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance payments will be made if :

  • You no longer have a job,
  • You are unable to reach the place of work,
  • You were injured in the disaster and are unable to work, whether you are an employee or self-employed.
  • Your workplace was damaged, destroyed, or you can't work because of the disaster.
  • Your transportation to work is not available because of the disaster.
  • You were about to begin working, but could not because of the disaster.
  • You have become the breadwinner for the household because the head of household died as a direct result of the disaster. If you became a breadwinner due to the death of a self-employed individual as a direct result of the disaster, you are considered an unemployed worker for DUA purposes, or
  • You derived most of your income from areas affected by the disaster, whether you worked for yourself or for an employer, and your business is down as a direct result of the disaster.

With exceptions for persons with an injury and for self-employed individuals performing activities to return to self-employment, in order to qualify for Disaster Unemployment Assistance, individuals must be able to work and available for work, which are the same requirements to be eligible for regular state unemployment insurance benefits.

How do I apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance?

To apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance:

  1. Call FEMA to get a registration number.
  2. File an application with the Division of Unemployment Assistance by the deadline established.
    • The Division of Unemployment Assistance will first determine whether you are eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance.
    • If you are not eligible, then the Division will determine whether you are eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance.

If you need assistance completing an application or have any questions regarding Unemployment Assistance, you can contact Benefit Operations at (617) 626-6800

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