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Puerto Ricans Who Lost Their Jobs After Hurricane Maria Granted 30-Day Extension to Apply for Up to 52 Weeks of Disaster Unemployment Assistance

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Puerto Ricans Who Lost Their Jobs After Hurricane Maria Granted 30-Day Extension to Apply for Up to 52 Weeks of Disaster Unemployment Assistance

Contact: Christiaan Perez, cperez@latinojustice.org, 212-739-7581; Amy Lebowitz, amy.lebowitz@berlinrosen.com646-200-5322

The Puerto Rico Department of Labor today announced a 30-day extension of the deadline to file for up to 52 weeks of federally-funded Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) for workers who lost their jobs as a result of Hurricane Maria. The prior deadline of May 24th has now been extended to June 24th.

More than a year after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Congress enacted a special extension of the DUA program, which provides up to 26 additional weeks of DUA for workers who exhausted their regular unemployment insurance or their standard 26 weeks of DUA, as well as up to 52 weeks of DUA for individuals who previously failed to apply for DUA for legitimate reasons. Workers who were unemployed as a result of Hurricane Maria anytime between September 20, 2017 and September 22, 2018 are eligible to collect a retroactive, lump-sum payment of DUA without regard to whether they are currently employed.

The special DUA program was first announced by the Puerto Rico Department of Labor on January 22nd, and the deadline to file was extended with the approval of the U.S. Department of Labor on March 25th and then again on May 24th. The National Employment Law Project (NELP) estimates that 10,000 workers could qualify for the federal benefits, totaling nearly $30 million in aid.

“Puerto Rico did the right thing extending the DUA filing deadline to June 24th to ensure that all Puerto Ricans who qualify can access the federal program,” said Maurice Emsellem, program director at NELP. “Now is the time for the Puerto Rico Labor Department to seriously boost the numbers of people applying, which requires publicizing the program in a bigger way and streamlining the application process.”

“After months of mediocre federal government assistance and constant neglect after Hurricane Maria, we are encouraged by this additional extension of Disaster Unemployment Assistance to Puerto Ricans who lost their work as a result of the hurricane. It’s important that Puerto Ricans who qualify for these benefits—wherever they may currently be—apply immediately. Any and all available aid remains critical to help Puerto Ricans with their ongoing recovery,” said Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, associate counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

For more information about the special DUA program, see the Spanish and English language fact sheets developed by NELP, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico. See also NELP’s recommendations to reboot the program to ensure that more people qualify for the benefits before the June 24th deadline.
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LatinoJustice PRLDEF works to create a more just society by using and challenging the rule of law to secure transformative, equitable and accessible justice, by empowering our community and by fostering leadership through advocacy and education.. For more information about LatinoJustice, visit www.latinojustice.org.

The National Employment Law Project is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts research and advocates on issues affecting low-wage and unemployed workers. For more about NELP, visit www.nelp.org. Follow NELP on Twitter at @NelpNews.