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Weekly unemployment claims continue at heavy volume in Utah

State also qualifies to offer aid to those who lost work because of March earthquake

SHARE Weekly unemployment claims continue at heavy volume in Utah
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The Utah Department of Workforce Services in Salt Lake City is pictured on Thursday, July 16, 2020.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of jobless Utahns are still seeking financial assistance to stay afloat through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The state’s Commerce Department reported Thursday that the total number of new claims filed for unemployment benefits registered at 7,306 for the week of July 5 to July 11 resulting in $82 million of benefits distributed to recipients.

The state still has more than 89,000 residents receiving jobless benefits.

“The unemployment insurance program has paid out over $1 billion in benefits during the pandemic to support thousands of Utahns and businesses,” said Unemployment Insurance Division Director Kevin Burt. “However, the $600 additional weekly stimulus benefit is only available for two more weeks. Thankfully, there are thousands of jobs available as Utah continues to work toward safe, economic recovery.”

He also noted that Utah was recently approved to receive more federal funds to mitigate the impacts of the earthquake that struck the Wasatch Front in March. However, chances are only a select few people will benefit from the disbursement.

“Utah was approved by FEMA for the disaster unemployment assistance ... an individual assistance program for individuals who were impacted by a disaster,” he said. “After the disaster — which was the earthquake on March, 18, as well as the aftershocks through April 17 — there’s an evaluation period of how much damage has been caused by these earthquakes and aftershocks. If it is determined there is a need for federal assistance to help with some of those costs as a result of the earthquake, then we as a state can request federal assistance to try and help cover some of those costs, including public assistance to help with damaged facilities and such.”

As part of that request for benefits, he said, there was also an evaluation of Individual Assistance or Disaster Unemployment Assistance — which is an aid program for individuals who lost their jobs as a direct result of the earthquake.

“(Disaster) Unemployment Assistance is a federally funded program (that) is only available for application for the next 30 days,” Burt said. “If you are unemployed as a direct result of the disaster of the earthquake, you can go to jobs.utah.gov/COVID-19 and you will see a link for an application and you can apply for that assistance.”

He noted that because of the specific parameters for qualification for the disaster funds, the division does not expect a large volume of applications to be submitted. He said that while the earthquake did cause some damage to facilities and properties, it did not result in significant losses in jobs like the COVID-19 outbreak did.

“Basically, you have the potential pandemic and then hot on the heels you had the earthquake — almost in the same week,” he said. “So many individuals were impacted by this pandemic, but did not have their employment disrupted due to the earthquake.”

The criteria for qualification for the Disaster Unemployment Assistance includes U.S. citizenship or legal immigration status to work and verification of employment before the earthquake and proof the earthquake was the direct cause of job loss.

“That is a very limited group of individuals that will be eligible,” Burt reiterated. “Those who are eligible we will absolutely provide that assistance. But there are very few that are going to be eligible.”

Those deemed qualified for the FEMA aid should expect to receive payment within 30 days, he said.