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Irma took your job? State offers another short-term solution


Date: September 20, 2017
Source: Orlando Sentinel
Author:  Paul Brinkmann


More benefits were announced Wednesday for people who lost their job or were dislocated by Hurricane Irma, in the form of temporary jobs that will pay a modest $13 to $15 per hour.

The jobs would be with agencies working on storm recovery, such as cleanup and humanitarian aid, or administrative work, for projects that include demolition, cleaning, repair, renovation and reconstruction of damaged structures and facilities. It’s part of the federal government’s dislocated worker grants, and will be administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Limited unemployment benefits are also available for Irma victims through the state’s Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) Program. As of Friday, the state reported about 250 people had already applied for DUA, but that number was expected to grow.

In Central Florida, Walt Disney World agreed to pay its union members for the two days it was closed. Starbucks announced it had closed 700 stores in Puerto Rico and the Southeast for Irma, and it would provide some assistance from its CUP Fund (Caring Unites Partners), which comes from employee donations. Universal Orlando and Publix didn’t respond to questions Wednesday about what they were doing for workers who lost pay during Irma.

The owners of one Orlando attraction that suffered damage, Pirate’s Adventure Dinner Theater, said it couldn’t pay all of its 217 employees as long as its shows were canceled. An employee there, Kimberly Poole, previously told the Sentinel said she worried about tapping her savings if she’s laid off.

On the crowd-funding website GoFundMe.com, several Floridians who said they lost pay or jobs during the hurricane posted requests for donations. One Central Florida man said he was a contractor who saw many people in need, and people should give to him. But few of those campaigns had attracted much money.

More information on the programs is available online at www.floridajobs.org or by calling the Florida Disaster Unemployment Assistance Line at 1-800-385-3920.

For shop owners who were closed, or small-business owners, short term loans up to $25,000 are being offered to cover storm expenses until insurance checks arrive or sales recover.

The first bridge loan for Irma recovery was granted Tuesday to Helen and Andy Viola, owners and operators of Viola’s Pizza Pasta & Seafood Restaurant in St. Augustine. More info on business loans is at www.floridadisasterloan.org.

Got a news tip? pbrinkmann@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5660; Twitter, @PaulBrinkmann