In this Edition... When Severe Weather Strikes!
In the past year, Missouri has seen more than its fair share of severe weather. March 12 through March 16 marks Missouri Severe Weather Awareness Week, intended to increase awareness regarding the most common spring emergencies Missourians may encounter – tornados, flash floods, and severe storms. This issue of Labor Link aims to educate Missourians on disaster response on various fronts including fair housing, unemployment insurance claims, and what to do if severe weather strikes at work.
Disasters Cause Low Housing Stock
When disaster strikes, there is often a shortage of available housing. For instance, when the F-5 tornado struck Joplin last May, approximately 7,500 households were destroyed, leaving housing supply limited and in high demand. Unfortunately, in these instances, many property owners’ and renters’ bias come into play and can lead to housing discrimination. When they discriminate based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, disability, or familial status, it violates fair housing laws.
According to Lynn Onstot, the Public Information Manager for the City of Joplin, families that may have been living in the same house for several years have had no reason to keep up with updates to housing laws, and can find themselves lost in the mass of confusion. “I think a big part of it is education,” said Onstot, “making people aware that there are resources available.” To help, the Department's Missouri Commission on Human Rights will be kicking off an educational campaign to inform those living in areas hit hard by disaster about their housing rights. Visit the Discrimination in Housing webpage to learn more.
Additionally, there are fair housing publications designed specifically for those who have been hit hard by disaster. Both publications, Fair Housing Consumer Guide and Fair Housing Laws are available on the Department’s website. If you have questions or think you may have been discriminated against, contact MCHR by phone at (573)-751-3325 or visit the File a Complaint webpage.
Department Responds Quickly to Branson Tornado Devastation
On Tuesday, March 6, several Department employees traveled to Branson to help residents affected by the storm apply for services on the spot. Workers were able to file an unemployment claim with the claims specialists present, as well as learn more about the Department’s disaster relief services they may be eligible for – such as housing assistance.
Additionally, employers that are unable to file their quarterly contributions or wage reports due lost records during the storm could apply for a request for extension. Employers could also apply for a recall date to temporarily lay off their workers with the intention of hiring them back once the damages are repaired. During this period of time, workers are able to file for unemployment benefits – which end upon their return back to work. The Shared Work program is another option for employers who are facing with a limited work load for their staff (and meet the established criteria) as it allows them to remain in operation while decreasing workers’ hours, but also compensating the workers for their lost labor hours with unemployment benefits.
“Missourians have seen more severe weather and dealt with disaster on a large scale throughout the past year,” Department Director Larry Rebman said, “Our job is to make sure everyone affected knows what steps to take to get back on their feet.”
For more information on disaster relief, visit the Department’s website. Employers looking to apply for a request for extension can do so by calling (573)-751-1995. To file an employment claim, call the regional claims center near you or file online.