ORLANDO, Fla. -- Panhandle county individuals who have lost income due to Hurricane Ivan have two days remaining to register for disaster unemployment assistance. The eligible counties are: Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Leon, Liberty, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Taylor, Wakulla, Walton and Washington. The last day to apply for disaster unemployment assistance benefits for these counties is Monday, Dec. 20, 2004.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) amended the disaster declaration dated September 16, 2004 to include 22 new counties that have until Jan. 13, 2005 to apply for disaster unemployment assistance. These counties are: Brevard, Citrus, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Highlands, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Marion, Martin, Okeechobee, Osceola, Orange, Palm Beach, Pasco, Polk, Seminole, St. Johns, St. Lucie, and Volusia.
The 22 new counties bring the total number to 38 Florida counties designated eligible for Individual Assistance as a result of Hurricane Ivan. Federal disaster unemployment assistance includes help for those who cannot get regular unemployment compensation, including self-employed people and farm workers.
Craig Fugate, state coordinating officer for disaster recovery, said applicants could file a claim for unemployment assistance using any of three different methods. Claims may be filed in person at One-Stop Centers or Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC), by phone at 1-800-204-2418 or on the Internet at www.fluidnow.com. Filing on-line is quicker and provides a guide to filing on the Internet. A complete list of the information applicants need to have on hand when making applications is also available.
The application process can be found at the www.fluidnow.com website. Click on “Internet Unemployment Compensation Claim Application,” or click on the “Guide to Completing the Unemployment Compensation Internet Application” for step-by-step instructions. Information is also available at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). The TTY number is available at 1-800-462-7585 for those who are speech or hearing-impaired. Both lines are available daily from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
The program is administered by Florida’s Agency for Workforce Innovation. Benefits are funded by FEMA, but are paid using the same procedures as the state unemployment program. “The self-employed are often the first to feel such losses, yet they are not eligible for state unemployment compensation. This program can help them recover some of their economic losses,” said Bill Carwile, federal coordinating officer for disaster recovery.
Residents of the additional 22 counties who suffered uninsured damages from the storm are also eligible to apply for federal aid that can include grants to help pay for temporary housing and home repairs as well as other disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration are also available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.
On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA’s continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.