How to Apply for Unemployment in Iowa

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on March 30, 2020

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Coronavirus has led to widespread job losses, but increased unemployment benefits could help you stay financially sound during the crisis.

Coronavirus has led to widespread job losses, but increased unemployment benefits could help you stay financially sound during the crisis. 

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on every aspect of American life. Sadly, because of social distancing measures put in place to help reduce the spread of the virus, millions of Americans have been left without jobs as companies temporarily shut their doors.  

If you're one of the many who have experienced a reduction in income or who have lost their jobs due to the response to COVID-19, unemployment benefits could provide an important lifeline that helps keep money coming into your bank account so you can cover your bills.  

This guide will help you understand the eligibility rules for unemployment benefits in Iowa and will walk you through the process of getting these benefits during this time of crisis. 

Do I qualify for unemployment benefits?

You can qualify for unemployment benefits in Iowa if you meet the following requirements:

  • You were paid wages by an employer in at least two quarters of your base period. The base period is a one year time period that includes the first four of the most recent five calendar quarters before your claim. So if you’re filing in March 2020, your base period would be October 2018 through September 2019. For April 2020 filers, it would be January through December 2019.
  • Your total wages earned in the base period were at least 1.25 times the wages you earned in the base period quarter when your earnings were highest.
  • You earned at least $1,660 in one quarter of your base period and at least $830 during a different quarter within your base period. 
  • You are not working at all or you're partially unemployed.
  • You lost your job through no fault of your own.
  • You're available for work and actively seeking it.
  • You're registered for work at iowaworks.gov

Iowa has announced that workers who must stay home to self-quarantine or care for a family member sick with COVID-19 are entitled to unemployment benefits as long as they meet eligibility requirements, which include working as an employee for at least six months within the last 18 months and earning at least $2,500 during that time. 

How do I apply for unemployment benefits?

You can apply online for unemployment benefits at the Iowa Workforce Development website. You will need:

  • Your Social Security number
  • The name of your most recent employer
  • The payroll address and phone number of your most recent employer
  • The dates of your most recent employment 
  • Details on any vacation or severance pay you're entitled to
  • Your Alien Registration Number, if you aren't a citizen
  • Your DD-214 if you completed military service over the past 18 months
  • Form SF-8 if you were a federal employee during the past 18 months
  • The names of your dependents, as well as their birth dates and Social Security numbers

How much money will I receive in unemployment benefits?

The amount of your benefits is based on the number of dependents you have and the amount of your earnings during the highest quarter of your base period. The wages in the relevant quarter are divided by:

  • 23 if you have no dependents 
  • 22 if you have one dependent
  • 21 if you have two dependents
  • 20 if you have three dependents
  • 19 if you have four dependents

There are also maximum limits, which vary depending on the number of dependents. If you have:

  • No dependents, your weekly maximum is $481
  • One dependent, your weekly maximum is $500
  • Two dependents, your weekly maximum is $518
  • Three dependents, your weekly maximum is $545
  • Four dependents, your weekly maximum is $591

How long can I collect unemployment benefits?

When you apply, benefits can be paid for up to one year but only until you exhaust your maximum benefit amount. The maximum benefit amount equals the lesser of 26 times your weekly benefit amount or one-third of the total wages you earned during your base period. However, the CARES Act extends that period by 13 weeks, allowing you to collect unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks.

What if my unemployment claim is denied?

If your claim is denied, you have 10 calendar days from the date listed on the decision to submit an appeal online or via mail to:

Iowa Workforce Development
Appeals Bureau
1000 E Grand Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50309-0209

Your appeal needs to include the date of the decision you're appealing as well as the reference number. You should also include your name, Social Security number, and contact details as well as the name and contact information for your employer. You'll want to specify the reason for appealing and include any supporting documentation. An appeal hearing will then be conducted via phone, unless you request an in-person hearing. 

If you need help, you can call (800) 532-1483, but Iowa warns that you should expect a higher-than-normal call volume due to increased claims resulting from coronavirus. 

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