Coronavirus Affecting Your Job? Answers to Unemployment Benefits Questions

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The unfortunate side effect of trying to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is many of Iowa’s workforce getting laid off, having hours cut or being forced to stay home and self isolate.

Unemployment benefits are there to help, but who exactly qualifies and what does it all entail? The Iowa Restaurant Association said approximately 80,000 jobs in their industry are affected by coronavirus. But restaurants and bars are only a sliver of the businesses having to shut things down.

If you are one of the thousands needing to apply, here are some frequently asked questions from the Iowa Workforce Development regarding coronavirus.

Who qualifies for unemployment benefits in Iowa?

  • Iowans need to have worked for wages in six of the last 18 months and have earned at least $2,500 during that period.

What scenarios make people eligible for unemployment benefits?

  • Iowans who are laid off due to the coronavirus.
  • Iowans who are temporarily laid off due to the coronavirus.
  • Iowans who are seeing a reduction in hours due to the coronavirus are also eligible to receive a partial payment.

What if workers are sick or having to self-quarantine because of COVID-19?

  • First, employees should work with their employers about telecommuting (working from home), sick leave, paid time off (PTO), Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), disability, or other options.
  • If those aren’t available, Iowans are eligible who are:
    • sick due to coronavirus.
    • required to self-isolate after travel or being in contact with someone who visited an affected region.
    • in mandatory quarantine because of legitimate suspicion of having coronavirus.
    • dependent or child needs cared for because of school cancellation or lack of child care.

What if workers, who don’t have an underlying medical condition, leave their job or refuse to work because they fear they could get COVID-19?

  • They would not be eligible for unemployment benefits because it was the individual’s choice to not work, not the employers. They can talk with the employer about other options like telecommuting (working from home), sick leave, paid time off (PTO), Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and disability.

Does someone have to use their paid time off before applying for unemployment benefits?

  • Any PTO, vacation, sick leave or other employer benefits should be used prior to getting unemployment insurance benefits.

If someone applies, when should they expect their first payment?

  • Iowa Workforce Development expects to get checks to workers in 7-10 days, which is faster than usual.

Do those using unemployment benefits have to be actively searching for new work?

  • If someone files a claim as a result of COVID-19, they will not be required to search for work.

How much will they get paid?

  • It depends. Iowa Workforce Development uses a formula based on earnings history and how many dependents one has.

Will employers be charged with the claims?

  • Claims that are filed and identified as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19 will not be charged to employers. Fact-finding interviews for these claims will not be held although employers will be notified of claims received.

Click here for more FAQ on unemployment benefits in Iowa. Click here to start your unemployment benefits application.

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