Unemployment Insurance Frequently Asked Questions

Use this list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for answers to common unemployment insurance (UI) questions. Don't see your question or answer? Please call UI Customer Service at 1-866-239-0843 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
 

Filing for Unemployment Benefits
Weekly Claims and Work Search Requirements
Payment Information
Additional Assistance
Eligibility
Protested Claims and Appeal Rights
Overpayments and Recovery
October 2017 Changes

 

Filing for Unemployment Benefits

Q) When should I file an application for benefits?

A) File an initial claim the same week you are unemployed or working reduced hours. Do not wait until you have returned to work to file your claim. Your unemployment insurance claim DOES NOT begin on the date your job ended or your hours were reduced. Your claim is effective the Sunday of the week you apply.

Q) How do I apply for benefits?

A)For step-by-step instructions on how to file an unemployment insurance benefit claim, visit Helpful Videos​ to view "How to File a Unemployment Insurance Benefit Claim." You will first create a user name and password on the Unemployment Benefits Online Application System and then complete the application. It is recommended you complete the application on a computer rather than on your phone because of the amount of information required. If you do not have access to a computer, you may use computers at any IowaWORKS location or at your local library. See the UI Benefits Application Process on page 13 of the Unemployment Insurance Handbook. If you need assistance or your claim involves military, federal, or out-of-state wages, call UI Customer Service at 1-866-239-0843 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Q) What information do I need when I apply?

A) You will need your Social Security Number; complete home mailing address, including ZIP code; telephone number; email address; check stubs or W-2 forms; complete mailing addresses of employers, including ZIP code and the city in which the business is physically located; your start and end dates with each employer, including month, day, and year; your reason for leaving each employers (lack of work, voluntary quit, discharge, leave of absence, still employed); employment authorization number and expiration date (if a non-citizen).

If you served in the military the past 18 months, you will need your DD-214 Member Copy 4 Form. If you worked for the federal government as a civilian employee in the last 18 months, you will need Standard Form 8 or Standard Form 50. Also, compile your total wages earned with the federal employer in the last 18 months and indicate how you were paid (hourly, weekly, monthly). See the UI Benefits Application Process on page 13 of the Unemployment Insurance Handbook.

Q) What happens after I submit my application for unemployment benefits?

A) It takes several weeks to process your application and to start receiving unemployment benefits. File a weekly claim every week online while your claim is processing or you have an appeal pending. Be sure to file your weekly claims on time. Make your required work search contacts every week and record your work search. It is recommended you use the form on pg. 30 of the Unemployment Insurance Handbook to record your work search.

Report all work and earnings when submitting your weekly claim. Report your gross earnings before any deductions and taxes for the week you perform the work. Do not wait until you are paid to report your earnings. Read all communication you receive from Iowa Workforce Development. Be sure to keep your address current because you’ll receive letters outlining what you need to do to maintain benefit eligibility.

Q) How can I reopen my unemployment claim?

A) Any break in reporting requires you to file another initial claim application during the week you want to start collecting benefits again. Any employment during the break must be reported.

Q) Why do I need to register for work?

A) When you apply for Unemployment Insurance benefits, you must also register for work. Go to IowaJobs.org to register for work. Registering for work is a separate process from applying for UI benefits. Registering for work helps to determine if you may be eligible for other programs or services to help you in your job search. If you do not live in Iowa, you must register for work with the nearest American Job Center. Find an American Job Center near you.  

Q) Can I file a claim if I live outside Iowa?

A) Yes. If you have earnings in the last 18 months have been in Iowa, you can file. If you have worked in two or more states, including Iowa, in the last 18 months, you can include those states on your application when you file. In addition, you must register for work with the nearest American Job Center. Find an American Job Center near you.  

Q) Can I file a claim if I worked for the federal government or military?

A) Yes. If you worked in federal civilian employment or for the military in the last 18 months, you can file an initial UI claim online. Federal employees will be asked to provide a Standard Form 8 and Standard Form 50, if available. Ex-military claimants will be asked to provide a Member 4 copy of the DD214.

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Weekly Claims and Work Search Requirements

Q) How do I file my weekly claim?

A) To file a weekly claim, log in to your account. You must file a weekly claim for any week that you want payment, even if your eligibility is being decided or you have an appeal pending. Answer all required questions on the weekly continued claim.
If you need assistance with your claim, call UI Customer Service at 1-866-239-0843 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Q) When should I file my weekly claim?

A) The current week is the week that just ended on Saturday.  Weekly claims must be filed 8:00 a.m. Sunday through 5:30 p.m. Friday for the prior week only.  This means individuals have six days to file the previous week's claim.  Weekly claims can be filed online using a mobile device or computer.  Have this information available when filing your weekly claim: Social Security Number, PIN, total amount of gross wages (before deductions) earned during the week, and total amount of gross holiday pay, gross vacation and severance, if received.  Delay in filing your weekly claim could result in denial of benefits.  

Q) What happens if I file my weekly claim late?

A) Filing your claim late may delay benefit payments or disqualify you for the weeks you filed late.

Q) Can I still file a claim if I'm working part-time?

A) If you earned less than your weekly benefit amount for any claimed week, you may be eligible for partial benefits. You must report your gross earnings (before deductions and taxes). Earnings include wages, tips, salary, commission, cash, bonuses, vacation pay, paid time off, pension or retirement pay, and workers’ compensation. The earnings must be reported for the week you perform the work, not when you are paid. If you earn $15 over your weekly benefit amount (WBA), you will not receive a payment.

Q) How many employer contacts do I need to make each week?

A) You are required to make two job contacts between Sunday and Saturday of the week you are claiming benefits. The job contacts can be made in person, online, by mail or by fax. Calling employers does not count as a job contact. You may apply for the same position with the same employer once every six weeks.

Exceptions: The work search requirement may be waived if you are temporarily unemployed and expect to be recalled by your former employer within a reasonable timeframe. In addition, the work search requirement is waived if you are approved for Department Approved Training (DAT).

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Payment Information

Q) How much will I receive each week?

A) Your individual benefits are calculated by identifying the highest quarter earnings in your base period and by the number of dependents claimed (up to a maximum of four). You will receive a letter in the mail with your weekly benefit amount.

Q) How long will my benefits last?

A) The benefit year is one year from the claim effective date. Benefits are paid until the Maximum Benefit Amount (MBA) is reached or the benefit year ends.

Q) How will I receive my payments?

A) Starting October 1, 2017, when you file a new claim application, you will be mailed a debit card. If you already have a debit card, you will continue to use that card until it expires. Contact Bank of America for questions.

Q) When will I receive my debit card?

A) You can expect to receive the IWD Debit Card in approximately seven to 10 business days. The card does not expire for three years, so please do not destroy the card when your unemployment insurance ends as you will use this same card should you receive unemployment insurance in the future.

Q) How do I resolve problems with my IWD Debit Card?

A) Bank of America issues and services the IWD Debit Card. Call the Bank of America customer service 24/7 at 1-855-477-1137 with questions. There is also a special IWD Debit Card website you can use to check your account balances and review deposits and withdrawals. For address and name changes, please contact UI Customer Service at 1-866-239-0843 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday as only IWD can update personal information with Bank of America.

Q) How can I have federal and state income tax withheld?

A) You may elect to have federal and state tax withholdings when filing your initial claim. You can start, stop, or change your income tax withholding completing the Tax Withholding Agreement form found in the Unemployment Insurance Handbook.

Q) When will you mail my 1099-G so I can do my taxes?

A) No later than January 31, you will be mailed an IRS Form 1099-G showing the total benefits paid to you for the prior year and the federal and state income taxes withheld. It will be sent to your last known address, so keep your address current with Iowa Workforce Development.

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Additional Assistance

Q) I forgot my user name and/or password. How do I retrieve this information?

A) Go to the UI benefits online page and click the “Forgot Username/Password” links. You can also call UI Customer Service at 1-866-239-0843 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Q) I don’t remember my PIN. What should I do?

A) Call UI Customer Service at 1-866-239-0843 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Q) What if I don't have a computer? Can I still file a claim?

A) Yes. If you do not have access to a computer, you may use computers at any IowaWORKS location or at your local library. In addition, if you have a smart phone, the ongoing claims filing tool is mobile friendly.

Q) Can I email you a question about my claim?

A) Yes. You may email us at uiclaimshelp@iwd.iowa.gov.

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Eligibility

Q) How long do I need to work in order to qualify for benefits?

A) To be eligible, you must have worked and earned a certain amount of wages in work covered by unemployment insurance in the last 15 to 18 months.

Q) What is a fact finding?

A) A fact finding is used to resolve questions regarding eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits. Your claim may be referred to a fact finder if there are questions about why you left your job or whether you are able and available for work. Other issues may also prompt a claim to be referred to a fact finder. During the fact finding, you and the employer will be asked a series of questions.

Q) I was fired from my job. Will I be eligible?

A) It depends on why you were fired from your job. Claims are automatically protested if you indicate you were fired.

Q) I just quit my job. Will I be eligible?

A) It depends on why you quit your job. Claims are automatically protested if you indicate you quit your job.

Q) I refused a job offer. Will I be eligible to continue to receive unemployment insurance benefits?

A) It depends on the wages for the job you refused. The wage requirement to determine if work is suitable is calculated using the wages earned in the high quarter of the base period. The high base period quarter is divided by 13 (the number of weeks in a quarter) to calculate the average weekly wage (AWW). Example: An individual’s earnings in the high quarter are $5,200. To compute the AWW, divide $5,200 by 13. The AWW is $400 which equals $10 per hour in a 40 hour work week. A job offer may be considered suitable if the offered wages are at or above the following percentages of the AWW:

  • 100 percent if work is offered in the first five weeks of a claim
  • 75 percent if work is offered during the 6th through 12th week of a claim
  • 70 percent if work is offered during the 13th through 18th week of a claim
  • 65 percent if work is offered after the 18th week of a claim

Q) What if I'm sick or injured and cannot work?

A) You must be able to work four or more days of the week in order to be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. If sickness or injury would prevent you from working four or more days, benefits will be denied.

Q) What if I'm on a leave of absence?

A) To receive unemployment benefits, you must be completely separated from your employer or working reduced hours. A leave of absence is not a complete separation from employment. 

Q) What if I am not available to accept work because I'm taking care of a family member?

A) You must be available four or more days of the week to accept immediate employment. You are not considered able and available if circumstances, such as lack of transportation or childcare problems, would prevent you from working four or more days of the benefit week.

Q) What if I'm a school employee on a scheduled summer break?

A) If you are employed for or on behalf of an educational institution, benefits (based on wages earned from educational institutions) may be denied between terms and/or during regularly scheduled breaks.

Q) I received a notice to report for re-employment services. Do I have to go?

A) If you receive a notice that you have been selected to receive re-employment services, you are required to take part in this program. If you do not, you may be disqualified from benefits.

Q) Can individuals who are not U.S. citizens receive benefits?

A) Yes. To receive unemployment benefits, non-citizen applicants must establish that they were in satisfactory immigration status and authorized to work in the United States when earning the wages used to establish their claim. Non-citizen applicants will be required to provide specific information from their employment authorization documents issued to them by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In some cases, non-citizen applicants will be asked to provide legible copies of their employment authorization documents. Iowa Workforce Development verifies immigration status and work authorization through an electronic system maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.

Q) What is the second benefit year qualification change?

A) For any claims with an effective date of July 2, 2017 or later, you will have to earn eight (8) times the weekly benefit amount you received during the previous benefit year in order to qualify for a new benefit year.

Q) Does this mean I need to earn eight times my salary?

A) No. You have to earn eight (8) times the weekly benefit amount you received during your previous benefit year in order to qualify for a new benefit year. These wages can be from more than one employer. The employer must pay UI taxes on the wages you.

Q) Why did this change occur?

A) A law was changed during the 2017 State of Iowa legislative session. This change aligns Iowa with other states who have higher qualifications for a second benefit year claim.

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Protested Claims and Appeal Rights

Q) My former employer is protesting my unemployment insurance eligibility. What can I do?

A) If an employer protests a claim, IWD holds a fact-finding interview with you and the employer. You will receive information by U.S. mail with the date and time of the interview and the phone number the fact-finder will use to call you. You are encouraged to participate. After the fact-finding interview is completed, IWD will make a decision in a few days if you are eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits. Both you and the employer receive the decision through the U.S. mail.

You or the employer can appeal the decision. The back of the decision notice outlines and appeal rights and instructions.

Q) How do I file my appeal?

Use this form to file your appeal online. You can also complete a paper form and send it via mail. The appeal must be postmarked or received within 10 calendars days from the date on the decision.

It is important to understand that appeals are a public record. This means the public, including the media, can access the headings, decisions, exhibits, transcripts and recordings without you being notified. Issued appeal decisions are posted online.

Q) What should I do while my appeal is pending?

A) While your appeal is pending, continue to file for weekly benefits, complete any required work search contacts, and log these contacts. Failure to file your weekly continued claim may disqualify you from receiving benefits for those weeks during the appeal process.

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Overpayments and Recovery

Q) Does an overpayment mean I owe money?

A) Yes. If you receive any unemployment benefits for which you are not eligible, you will be required to repay those benefits. If benefits were paid to you in error, you will receive a notice stating the amount you were overpaid and why you were not eligible for the benefits.

Q) How do I avoid collection activity against me?

A) You can avoid collection activities by either repaying the debt in full or making monthly payments. Learn more about overpayment and recovery.

Q) How do I make a payment?

A) Mail a check or money order to Iowa Workforce Development – Benefit Payment Control, 1000 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA 50319. Credit card payments can be made online.

Q) Who pays for unemployment insurance benefits?

A) Benefits are paid from the Iowa State Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. The fund is supported solely by a special tax on employers. No deductions are taken from employees’ paychecks for unemployment insurance.

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October 2017 Changes

Weekly Claim Filing Changes

Q) Why can I no longer file my weekly claim on a Saturday starting on October 7, 2017?

A) The work week for unemployment insurance ends at midnight on Saturday. Eliminating the opportunity to file on Saturday will help to ensure accurate records for job searching and hours worked.

Q) How many days will I have to file a weekly claim starting on October 7, 2017?

A) You will have six days to file the previous week’s claim. You have from Sunday through Friday to file the claim. The online weekly claim application is available on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Q) Do I have to wait until October to make this change?

A) You’re encouraged to start following the new claims filing process now so you are used to the new schedule when the changes happen in October.

Q) What if I miss the deadline for filing a claim?

A) Please call UI Customer Service at 1-866-239-0843 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
 

Payment Method Change
 

Q) Why is IWD automatically issuing debit cards for unemployment insurance starting on October 1, 2017?

A) Debit cards are a safe and secure way for states to make unemployment insurance payments.
 

Q) I currently have direct deposit for my unemployment insurance. Do I need to move to a debit card on October 1, 2017?

A) Your direct deposit will continue until you file a new claim application.

Q) I already have an IWD Debit Card. Do I need to get a new card on October 1, 2017?

A) No, you will continue to use the same IWD Debit Card until it expires. The cards are good for three years.

Q) I had direct deposit the last time I filed for unemployment insurance. Can I have direct deposit again?

A) If you file a new claim application, you will be mailed an IWD Debit Card. Contact Bank of America for questions.

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