Unemployment Insurance: Frequently Asked Questions
You can call UI Customer Service at 1-866-239-0843 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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.
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.
For more information, see Steps & Responsibilities in the online handbook section. If you have additional questions, please contact UI Customer Service at 1-866-239-0843 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
You will need the following:
- 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).
- Bank account and routing number
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).
For more information, see Steps & Responsibilities in the online handbook section.
It generally takes up to three 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 reemployment activities every week and record and certify them in IowaWORKS at www.iowaworks.gov.
When filing your weekly claim, report all work performed and earnings earned during that same week. You must report the money you earned for the previous Saturday through Sunday period, even if you have not yet been paid for it. You must report your gross earnings, not take-home pay. Gross earnings are how much money you earned for that week’s work before taxes and other deductions are taken out.
For example, you work part-time during a week while still receiving unemployment benefits and your part-time job pay $10 per hour. You worked 5 hours on Wednesday, 5 hours on Thursday, and 5 hours on Friday. When you file your weekly claim, you would report $150 in gross earnings ($10 per hour x 15 hours), even if you have not yet been paid for that work and will be paid less after taxes. The earnings you report may be verified with your employer.
To reopen your unemployment claim, you would file another initial claim application during the week you want to start collecting unemployment insurance benefits again. Anytime you have a break in your unemployment claim, you will need to reopen your claim. A break in your claim happens any time you have a gap in filing weekly claims for unemployment insurance benefits. For example, you file a new, original claim for unemployment in late November, file weekly claims for unemployment for two weeks for which you do not work, then forget to file weekly claims for the next two weeks because of the busy holiday season while still not working. This will cause there to be a two-week break in your claim. To reopen your claim so you can start filing week claims again, you would need to file a new claim in the initial claims application.
A similar thing happens if, after you file your original claim, you work and have a break in your claim. For example, you file a new, original claim in late November and file two weekly claims and then go back to work in mid-December. Then, in March, you are laid off of work again and need to reopen your claim to start filing weekly claims again. During the first week you are laid off, you would file a new claim using the initial claims application and would report your last day worked as that last day in March you worked before being laid off.
If you have any additional questions, please contact UI Customer Service at 1-866-239-0843 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
By Iowa law and administrative code (871 IAC 24.2(1)a), when you apply for unemployment insurance benefits through the State of Iowa you must also register for work. To do so, visit iowaworks.gov and click on the Sign In/Register button.
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, do not live in a county that borders Iowa, or were not commuting to Iowa to work for the six months prior to your filing for unemployment insurance benefits in Iowa, you must register for work with the American Job Center nearest to you in the state in which you reside. Find an American Job Center near you.
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, if you do not live in a county that borders Iowa or were not commuting to Iowa to work for the six months prior to your filing for unemployment insurance benefits in Iowa, you must register for work with the American Job Center nearest to you in the state in which you reside. Find an American Job Center near you.
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.
To file a weekly claim, go the weekly claims application at this link. Prior to filing your weekly claim, be sure to enter your reemployment activities and certify the week in IowaWORKS.gov. Then, you will be directed to log into the weekly claims application to file your weekly claim.
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 site.
If you need assistance with your claim, please contact UI Customer Service at 1-866-239-0843 between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The current week is the week that just ended on Saturday. Weekly claims must be filed Sunday through Friday for the prior week only (Hours to file weekly claims are 8 am to 7:30 pm Sunday or 8:00 am to 5:30 pm Monday through Friday). 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:
- Account username and password
- Social Security Number
- Total amount of gross wages earned during the week, and the total amounts of gross holiday pay, gross vacation, and/or gross severance pay, if received. Remember, gross means the amount before any deductions for taxes, fringe benefits, etc.
Prior to filing your weekly claim, be sure to enter your reemployment activities and certify the week in IowaWORKS (iowaworks.gov). A delay in filing your weekly claim could result in denial of benefits.
Failure to timely file your weekly claim will result in you being unable to file a weekly claim for any and all weeks which you forgot to file and, thus, filed late. This will disqualify you from receiving payment and will cause a break in your claim, requiring you to reactivate your claim using the initial claims application at this link.
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 deduction and taxes). Earnings include:
- Wages, salary, tips, commission
- Holiday pay, vacation pay, paid time off, incentive pay
- Strike pay (if received for services rendered), stand-by pay, back-pay awards, payment other than cash
- Severance pay, wages in lieu of notice, wage interruption insurance payment, and sick leave and funeral leave used while still working (payments of sick pay issued after a separation of employment from an employer are not reportable on weekly claims).
Workers’ compensation payments are reportable on weekly claims when they are for temporary total disability. Disability is reportable on weekly claims when it is short-term disability. Pension or annuity payments are reportable on weekly claims if the pension or annuity payment is in connection with employment you held during your base period (generally, the previous 18 months) and for which the employer contributed all of the contributions into the pension or annuity and you paid nothing into it.
If you earn $15 over your weekly benefit amount (WBA), you will not receive a payment. For more information and general guidelines on deductibility, see the Continued Eligibility page in the claimant handbook.
You are required to complete 4 reemployment activities, 3 of them being job applications, each week between Sunday and Saturday of the week you are claiming benefits. The job applications 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. You are required to create an IowaWORKS profile and certify your reemployment activities. You will utilize IowaWORKS to certify your reemployment activities. You are required to certify your reemployment activities prior to filing your weekly claim.
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).
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.
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. Most unemployment claims have a maximum of 16 times the Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA).
When you file a new claim application, you will have the option to select direct deposit or a debit card to receive benefit payments. If you already have a debit card, you will continue to use that card until it expires. Contact U.S. Bank for questions about the U.S. Bank ReliaCard® (855.282.6161 or visit www.usbankreliacard.com). You may also select the option of direct deposit to have your benefit payments deposited directly into your checking or savings account.
You can expect to receive the IWD Debit Card in approximately 7 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.
Contact U.S. Bank if there are any issues with the U.S. Bank ReliaCard® (call 855.282.6161 or visit www.usbankreliacard.com). You must contact U.S. Bank to order a replacement card or to report a lost or stolen card.
Only IWD can update your personal information for the ReliaCard. Address or name changes should be reported to IWD.
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 by completing the Tax Withholding Agreement form found in the Unemployment Insurance Handbook at this page.
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.
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.
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.
Yes. You may email us at email@example.com.
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.
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.
It depends on why you were fired from your job. Being fired does not automatically disqualify a person from being eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. Claims are automatically protested if you indicate you were fired.
It depends on why you quit your job and other circumstances surrounding why you quit your job. Quitting your job does not automatically disqualify you from being eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. Claims are automatically protested if you indicate you quit your job.
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 the first week of a claim
- 90 percent if work is offered during the 2nd and 3rd week of a claim
- 80 percent if work is offered during the 4th and 5th week of a claim
- 70 percent if work is offered after the 6th through the 8th week of a claim
- 60 percent if work is offered after the 8th week of a claim
You must be available to work the majority of your work week in order to be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. If you are not currently employed and are collecting unemployment insurance benefits, you will generally need to be available for work four out of seven days. However, if you are on a temporary layoff from an employer, you are only considered not able and available for work if you are still sick or injured on and after the date the employer schedules you to return to work.
If you are on a leave of absence that you requested, you will be considered not able and available for work. However, if the employer placed you on a leave of absence, the reason for the employer placed you on a leave of absence will need to be assessed.
An individual must be available for work to the same degree and extent as they were when the wages used to make the individual monetarily eligible for work were earned. You are not considered able and available if circumstances, such as lack of transportation, childcare problem, or caring for a family member, would prevent you from working to the same extent you did in the 15 to 18 months prior to when you filed your claim for unemployment benefits.
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.
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.
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.
A non-citizen must also continue to maintain legal work authorization each week for which they file for unemployment benefits.
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 within a few days on whether 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.
Use the online appeal form to file your appeal online. You can also complete a paper form and send it via mail. The appeals must be postmarked or received within 10 calendar 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.
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.
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.
You can avoid collection activities by either repaying the debt in full or making monthly payments.
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.
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.