WASHINGTON - September 15 - The Bush Administration and Congress must act immediately to increase unemployment benefits to the hundreds of thousands of workers left jobless by Hurricane Katrina, especially given the news today that this week saw the biggest jump in unemployment insurance claims in nine years, an even bigger jump than post-September 11.
The crisis is two-fold: not only are tens of thousands more claims expected to show up on the rolls by next week when reports come in from mobile unemployment claim units and shelters, but the average unemployment payments in these affected states are the absolute three lowest in the nation.*
Our nation’s leaders must make unemployment benefits through the Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program available to all workers whose job loss is directly or indirectly related to Katrina. After September 11th, less than 3,300 workers received disaster unemployment benefits due to the program’s restrictions.
The Bush Administration should immediately act to increase the unemployment benefit payment to the maximum state level or the federal average, whichever is higher. Under current rules, workers eligible for DUA in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana can only get 50 percent of the state average UI benefit, or just $85 to $97 per week. Working people can barely fill their gas tanks with that, much less rent a new apartment and feed their families.
The Bush Administration should also provide disaster benefits for 52 weeks and eliminate the 30-day filing period for DUA claims.
The Bush Administration failed America’s working people by wringing its hands when the crisis struck. They must step up to the plate now, and waste no time helping these working families get back on their feet.