Unemployment Swells in Katrina’s Wake

Hurricane Katrina’s devastation continues to profoundly impact American workers as 398,000 workers filed initial claims for state unemployment benefits during the week ending September 10. The Labor Department reported a 71,000 increase from the previous week, making it the largest one-week increase in the number of unemployment insurance claims in more than nine years.

The number of workers filing for unemployment assistance is expected to increase even further in the coming weeks as Katrina evacuees begin to receive their last paycheck and are advised on filing for assistance by relief workers.

In response to the large number of evacuees who will need more substantial assistance due to the scope of Katrina’s devastation, the National Employment Law Project has called on Congress and the Bush administration to make major improvements to federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance.

As it stands now, most families will not receive federally-funded Disaster Unemployment Assistance due to major federal restrictions adopted in the 1980’s. Instead, they will be forced to rely on unemployment benefits from Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, which pay the lowest benefits in the country.

“Today’s jobless claims are a poignant reminder of the crippling impact of Hurricane Katrina on jobs and the community,” said Maurice Emsellem, Policy Director of the National Employment Law Project. “We urgently need a federal response to the disaster that includes major improvements to the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program.”

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