Facing challenges after Derecho, COVID-19? Resources for Job Seekers

out of work due to derecho Cedar Rapids Gazette

Photo Credit: (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

If you’re currently unemployed during COVID-19, the stress you’re under must be overwhelming, at times. Couple that with a giant windstorm, and suddenly, you think, “Can it get any worse?!” People faced with such stress often give up. If you are unemployed due to derecho, or currently looking for work, here are steps to move forward, along with resources to do so.

Step one: Assess your needs

Shelter issues: If you have a food or shelter need, that will need to be addressed prior to job search. Are you struggling with insurance providers? You can file a complaint here.  You can also file for low interest loan assistance thru SBA https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/articles/f4506-t-2015-09-00.pdf – that could help while you sort out your insurance claim so you can get your home repaired.

Food assistance: If you have not yet applied for food assistance, begin the process. If you cannot fill out a form online, contact the local DHS office, located at 411 3rd Street SE,  Suite 200 in Cedar RapidsIA 52401.  If you already qualified for food assistance and lost your food supplies due to the storm, you can apply for reimbursement.

Connectivity: Loss of power, cell, and internet services have made getting information difficult. To charge your devices, get wifi access, local libraries are available for in-person support.

Cedar Rapids Public Library Resources

While the Marion Public Library is currently closed due to an outbreak, the Technology Station at the Marion Columbus Club, 5650 Kacena Avenue, remains open. Computers, printers and the Iowa DOT kiosk are available at this location.

Other, less formal locations have wi-fi service, many local Hy-Vee’s, Targets (and other stores reconnected to power) offer guest wifi to patrons. If you choose to use free wifi, safeguard your personal information by being selective about what you share, refrain from visiting sites without ‘https’ in their web address.

Disaster Assistance for your home:

Certain assistance is in process because of the Federal disaster declaration, and more assistance may come at a later date. Calling 2-1-1 can put you in touch with the most up to date resources for clearing debris or other home-related resources.

What we know now:

Assistance for low-income individuals: If you or your family is at or below 200% poverty guidelines, you may qualify for disaster assistance through the Department of Human Services. To apply you will need to fill out this form. If you need help filling out the form or have questions, you can call 1-877-347-5678.

Similar to an insurance claim, you may need to provide documentation such as Photo ID, Proof of residence, Proof of income (pay stubs, W-2, tax return, public benefit letter of decision, social security letter, etc.), Insurance coverage and filings (if applicable), Receipts (if requesting reimbursement for a disaster-related expense), Photos of damage (if applicable).

Utility Assistance:

The Iowa Finance Authority has resources for individuals who face the possibilities of their utilities being shut off due to an inability to pay due to a COVID-19 related loss of income. The max assistance is $2,000 and the deadline is November 20th, 2020.

Step 2: File for Unemployment

Even though all pandemic-related unemployment programs have ended, Unemployment due to Derecho Damage is an option. Unemployed Linn County residents who cannot apply for regular state unemployment benefits may be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance as part of the major disaster declaration signed by President Donald Trump. The first step to file unemployment is to file a claim. Here’s what you need to provide:

The following information is needed when filing for Unemployment Insurance benefits:

  • Proof of Identity with a Social Security card AND another proof of identity, such as a Driver’s License, a State-issued ID, or Military ID
  • Social security number
  • Name, payroll address and telephone number of your last employer
  • Start and end dates of your last job
  • Whether or not you will receive vacation pay, severance, etc.
  • Alien registration number (if not a U.S. citizen or permanent refugee)
  • DD-214 (Member 4) if you served in the U.S. military during the last 18 months
  • Name(s), date(s) of birth, and social security number(s) of any dependents that are claimed as exemptions on your federal income tax return
    • Spouses may be claimed as a dependent if their gross wages were $120.00 or less in the week prior to filing your claim.
    • Self-employment does not count as gross wages for dependent purposes.

Work Search Requirement?

Once you’ve filed for unemployment, you may need to register for work, which can be done online or at an IowaWorks Center, which is currently only open by appointment. Some waivers are possible due to your situation. Please consult with IowaWorks about your individual requirements.

Step 3: Mental Health Check

Okay. I’m guessing you are already overwhelmed. The good news is there is mental health help available as well. The Gazette reports that COVID Recovery Iowa is responding to the mental health needs of Iowans impacted by the recent storm. Help is available by contacting the Iowa Concern Hotline at 800-447-1985 or go to covidrecoveryiowa.org. Program staff can also provide referrals and information about programs that will help Iowans manage stress, family financial, and farm financial concerns.

Additional local resources include Foundation2. If you are suffering from sudden or ongoing mental stress and need to speak to someone, please contact the 24-hour crisis hotline led by Foundation 2. Visit their website or call 1-800-332-4224.

Step 4: Look for a Job

Until your basic needs are met (and sometimes after that) it is very hard to be in the right mental place to look for work. If you are unemployed due to Derecho-related impacts, you may not be ready to job search. However, if you have already filed for unemployment, you will have the materials you need to begin applying for jobs. Proof of identity and basic work information is a good place to start.

  • Identify 2-3 short-term job titles you would consider
  • Identify 2-3 career, or long-term roles you would like to do
  • Consider volunteerism

Set some goals

Having short and long-term goals is critical right now while our community is dealing with recovery from a major storm during a pandemic. Many residents are experiencing stress-induced brain fog (call it ‘derecho brain.’) Perhaps you could do a more physical job right now if you are unemployed due to Derecho impact,  on a part-time basis? Or you could consider temporary positions to help you while you re-assess.

Industries in need of workforce:

Volunteering Locally

If you are not having luck finding work, but need a routine, consider volunteering. The need is so great right now, and it can help you as you help others. In Linn County, call 224-406-1366 or you can:

1. Sign up in-person at Linn County Emergency Management, located at 6301 Kirkwood Blvd SW. They are open from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

2. Sign up to volunteer online at uweci.org/volunteernow

If you are unemployed due to Derecho or simply unemployed during a pandemic, we want you to know you are not alone. While the number of people filing for unemployment is trending down, there are still many Iowans out of work. And as we learned from the flood of 2008, eventually it will get better.

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Covid 19 and Derecho