Hurricane Maria's Aftermath: Highlights Of Available Government Assistance For Puerto Rico Residents

Author:Ms Mariela Rexach, Elizabeth Pérez-Lleras, Maria Elisa Echenique-Arana, Vanessa I. Marzán-Hernández and Sashmarie Z. Rivera-Lopez
Profession:Littler Mendelson
 
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On September 20, 2017, Puerto Rico suffered the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Maria,1 which savaged the Island, taking down all communications systems, severely damaging or completely destroying many homes and roads, and causing a disastrous impact on the Island's vegetation and agriculture. Three weeks since Maria's downfall, Puerto Rico is still dark, with only 16% of the population having electricity. As businesses search for assistance and alternatives to recover from this natural disaster, re-open their businesses and reconstruct Puerto Rico, many are also seeking ways to help their employees address their diverse concerns and needs. This article highlights different sources of assistance available to Puerto Rico residents in the aftermath of the hurricane.

Local Unemployment Insurance (UI)

Generally, a person who becomes unemployed for reasons beyond his/her control (such as economic reasons, elimination of positions, company reorganization, among others) will qualify for local Unemployment Insurance (UI). This insurance is paid by all employers and administered by the Puerto Rico Department of Labor. An unemployed individual may qualify for Puerto Rico UI benefits if he/she is partially or totally unemployed and wants to and is able to work. This means that individuals who became unemployed, who were temporarily suspended from employment, or whose working hours were reduced due to shortage of work because of Hurricane Maria, will, in all likelihood, qualify for UI benefits, with a few exceptions. Under the current post-hurricane scenario, the most relevant exceptions include: (1) National Guard personnel; (2) seasonal workers in the event of a natural disaster; (3) individuals under 21 who are not heads of household; and (4) employees whose service is provided as an employee of an international organization.

Application Process

There are three channels through which a qualifying unemployed person may apply for UI benefits with the Department of Labor (DOL). First, the claim may be filed through the DOL's website (i.e., www.trabajo.pr.gov) (if Internet access is available). Second, the claim may be filed in person at any of the DOL's 15 local offices. As a third option, individuals may call the DOL's designated telephone line: 787-945-7900, from 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., to establish their claim.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Disaster Unemployment Assistance Program If an employee is not entitled to UI benefits, as...

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