Hurricane Irma evacuees in Tennessee may be eligible for unemployment benefits

One-year-old Kane Knaus sits on a cot as his mother tends to her other children nearby at the Lake Charles Civic Center, an evacuation shelter for those displaced by Tropical Storm Harvey, in Lake Charles, La., Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Hundreds of refuges from Hurricane Irma sought refuge in Tennessee and many are staying with family or at hotels and campgrounds and are not able to work.

To help ease the burden, the state said out-of-state residents who plan to stay in Tennessee for an extended period of time, because their home or place of employment suffered damage, can file for unemployment insurance. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said workers displaced by the hurricane can start the filing process for unemployment benefits in the state in which they have permanent employment.

Workers can file through their home-states’ unemployment insurance website:

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development said typically a state can directly deposit a displaced worker’s benefits into the worker’s bank account, making the fund accessible while they stay in Tennessee.

“This is a very stressful time for residents chased out of their homes by the hurricane,” said Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips. “We want to make certain anyone who is staying in Tennessee has all the information they need to get the unemployment benefits they are entitled to, so they have one less thing to worry about.”

Phillips said because the federal government will most likely declare areas impacted by the hurricane a federal disaster area, unemployment insurance may be available to persons who typically would not be entitled to benefits.  For example, small business owners and independent contractors may be eligible for benefits through a disaster work grant.  States encourage all workers displaced by the hurricane to file for benefits, to eventually determine if they will be eligible for benefit payment.

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