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Unemployment claim deadline looms in fire aftermath

Time is running out for people to file for special unemployment benefits if they lost their jobs or had their work hours significantly cut due to the Almeda or South Obenchain fires.

The deadline for filing a Disaster Unemployment Assistance claim is Friday.

People are eligible under the following conditions:

  • You no longer have a job as a direct result of the disaster.
  • You are unable to reach your place of employment as a direct result of the disaster.
  • You were going to start work and you don’t have a job or you are unable to reach the job as a direct result of the disaster.
  • You are the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of the disaster.
  • You can’t work because of an injury caused as a direct result of the disaster.

Disaster-related benefits will be available until March 20, 2021 — as long as a person’s unemployment is a direct result of the disaster.

To be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance, people must not be eligible for regular state unemployment insurance or COVID-19 pandemic unemployment assistance. The disaster program is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

People should apply through the Oregon Employment Department, which will first check if applicants qualify for state unemployment benefits.

To apply or for additional information, visit www.oregon.gov/EMPLOY/Disaster or call 1-503-570-5000.

The Almeda fire destroyed 173 business buildings and damaged another 25, primarily in Phoenix and Talent.

It damaged and destroyed more than 2,600 residential structures.

The South Obenchain fire between Butte Falls and Shady Cove destroyed 33 residential structures and 56 additional structures, including outbuildings.

In addition to disaster unemployment benefits, Jackson County residents impacted by the fires are eligible for one month of temporary Disaster Supplemental Assistance Program food benefits.

Pre-registration is open through Thursday, with the open application period running until Wednesday, Oct. 28. People are encouraged to pre-register.

The benefits are provided through a card that is similar to a debit card. It can be used to buy food at grocery stores and other SNAP retailers.

The food benefits are available if:

  • Your home or self-employed business site was damaged or destroyed by a fire.
  • Your income was lost, reduced or significantly delayed due to disaster-related problems.
  • You have disaster-related expenses — including repairs, temporary shelter or food — and won’t receive reimbursement during the disaster benefit period.

Due to COVID-19, all disaster SNAP applications must be completed online. See www.oregon.gov/dhs/ASSISTANCE/FOOD-BENEFITS/Pages/DSNAP.aspx.

For information about other local sources of help, including food, call 2-1-1.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Ewing Irrigation and Landscape Supply in Phoenix was gutted by the Almeda fire. Vickie Aldous/Mail Tribune
The Barber Shop in Phoenix was among the businesses destroyed by the Almeda fire. Vickie Aldous/Mail Tribune