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Puerto Ricans Who Lost Their Jobs After Hurricane Maria Can Get $3,000 – What About People In The USVI?

SAN JUAN — Puerto Ricans who lost their jobs after hurricanes Maria and Irma can start applying for disaster unemployment assistance after the U.S. doubled the 26 weeks of benefits, officials announced today.

The National Employment Law Project estimates that more 10,000 Puerto Ricans are eligible and that lump-sum payments could total nearly $30 million, with overall individual payments ranging from $2,000 to $3,000.

But legal advocates worry the conditions set by Puerto Rico’s government will make it hard for many to apply, including that workers have to provide the required documents in person and that internet options are not available.

Advocates are trying to reach out to families that qualify but worry they won’t reach many given that more than an estimated 130,000 people fled Puerto Rico after the two major hurricanes hit the Caribbean in September 2017.

Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, with the civil rights organization LatinoJustice PRLDEF, said in a phone interview that the extension is a recognition by the federal government that people affected by the hurricanes still need help.

“Many remain unemployed and are suffering the impact of not having any income,” she said. “We have to continue to look for ways to help them.”

Payments will be issued retroactively to cover weeks affected by the disasters for those who qualify.

The benefits extension also applies to those from the U.S. Virgin Islands who remain jobless.

Hurricane Irma passed near St. John and St. Thomas on Sept. 6, 2017 as a Category 5 storm. Two weeks later, Maria passed south of St. Croix and then hit Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm, causing more than an estimated $100 billion in damage.

The extension of another 26 weeks of benefits surpasses the additional 13 weeks offered to those affected by Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 terror attacks, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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