As wildfires rage, state says unemployment assistance is available - Albuquerque Journal

As wildfires rage, state says unemployment assistance is available

The New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. (Courtesy of the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Has your employment been affected by the wildfires ravaging New Mexico?

The state on Monday announced that disaster unemployment assistance is now available to help.

“This is an extremely trying time for thousands of our neighbors who are impacted by wildfires,” said Ricky Serna, acting cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions. “Disaster unemployment assistance is one of several measures that Governor Lujan Grisham is deploying to help eligible New Mexicans’ recovery and return to their communities.”

The announcement comes on the same day the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire became the largest wildfire in the state’s history, surpassing 298,000 acres as of Monday morning. It also comes two weeks after President Joe Biden declared that a major disaster exists in New Mexico, allowing federal funds to aid individuals affected in the state.

Disaster unemployment assistance applications are only accepted by phone at 1-877-664-6984 or in-person at any New Mexico Workforce Connection Center across the state, and at various evacuation shelters, including the Juan Gonzales Agriculture Center in Taos, the old Memorial Middle School in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and the Glorieta Camp.

Stacy Johnston, a public information officer for NMDWS, says people looking to apply for assistance first need to apply for state benefits. If they are deemed ineligible, they can then apply for disaster unemployment assistance.

Assistance is available for weeks of unemployment beginning April 10 through Nov. 5, according to a news release. The deadline to apply is June 15.

Those who may be eligible include:

• People who work or are self-employed and do not qualify for regular unemployment or extended benefits from any state.

• New Mexicans unable to reach their job or self-employment location because they have to travel through an affected area.

• People who can no longer work because of physical damage to their place of employment caused by the disaster.

• Those who cannot access their place of employment due to closure by federal, state or local governments.

• People who cannot work because of an injury as a result of the disaster.

• Those who became the “breadwinner or major support” of a household that has been affected by the disaster.

The state says proof of employment or self-employment needs to be submitted no later than 21 days after filing for assistance.

Proof of employment includes a written statement from an employer; an earnings statement with the employer’s name, address and contact information; a payroll voucher or check stub “closest in date to the last work week;” and business records such as bank statements, business receipts, invoices or financial statements.

Johnston told the Journal the assistance consists of weekly benefit payments “that are computed based on the prior tax year as established through tax records submitted to the department for verification,” adding that, “If earnings records are not available, but eligibility is otherwise established, DUA claimants will be calculated as the minimum weekly benefit allowable under the federal regulations.”

State officials are also urging those affected by wildfires to apply for FEMA individual assistance at disasterassistance.gov.

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