BATON ROUGE – As Floridians continue to recover from Hurricane Irma, employees at the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) are using experience honed from Louisiana’s own disaster response to help.
In an unprecedented move, LWC’s Office of Unemployment Insurance Administration (OUIA) is assisting Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity Reemployment Assistance Program with claim intake for thousands of disaster-related unemployment claims.
“At Secretary (Ava) Dejoie’s request, we reached out to Florida because, unfortunately, we’ve gotten really good at disasters in Louisiana,” said OUIA Director Renita Ward Williams. “Our state was in this same position last year; the only difference was that it wasn’t a named storm. We want Florida to let us worry with the details, so that they could focus on recovery.”
Dejoie echoed Williams’ sentiment. “Under Governor Edwards’ leadership, we are committed to helping those in need. Colleagues from around the country have come to Louisiana’s aid during numerous disasters. We are simply doing what we can. It’s the right thing to do,” she said.
Louisiana’s OUIA employees are assisting Florida residents who call in to file for unemployment as a result of Hurricane Irma. Applicants are placed into two basic categories: those who qualify for traditional unemployment benefits and those who qualify for DUA – a federally funded program designed to be used as a last-resort safety net for residents who may not qualify for regular unemployment assistance.
In order to handle the extra workload, Williams has augmented her staff with 140 extra workers, who have been handling calls and, in some cases, working extended hours since Sept. 14.
Louisiana’s experience with natural disasters also led Williams to craft what she calls a DUA Package for Florida. The package includes multiple documents, such as a U.S. Department of Labor funding request and a sample news release, which will help in the recovery process.
“Louisiana’s OUIA team is prepared to help Florida for at least 30 days, which generally is the length of a DUA application period,” Williams said. “However, the federal government may grant extensions.”
Williams, a 2016 flood victim herself, also offered personal words of support for those affected by Irma. “Our goal is to foster a supportive environment where affected persons can apply for benefits with dignity, and without guilt, shame, or embarrassment,” she said.
The OUIA team also is prepared to walk victims through protocol for obtaining pertinent documents they may have lost during the flood and to provide suggestions and contact information for various other resources. In short, the LWC aims to encourage them as they navigate through the recovery process. Florida residents who need unemployment assistance should call (800) 204-2418 or visit www.floridajobs.org.
About The Louisiana Workforce Commission
The Louisiana Workforce Commission is an agency of state government that administers programs designed to enhance workforce growth and provide family-sustaining jobs for Louisiana residents. The commission monitors employment, administers unemployment compensation and tax funds, provides training resources for employers and employees and oversees worker compensation benefits. The agency also gathers and supplies information on the labor market and occupational sectors in Louisiana.
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