How to Get Unemployment Benefits in Alaska
While unemployment benefit claims have dropped dramatically since the last recession, Alaska is one state leading the nation in the number of insured unemployed. Roughly 2.7% of workers in the state are collecting benefits. This suggests that Alaska is still adjusting during the recovery period, and workers should be prepared in case they need to apply for assistance. Discover the policies and procedures to slip past red tape in this guide.
To qualify for benefits, you must have worked for an employer covered by the state’s unemployment insurance law (a “covered employer”). You must have earned a minimum amount from those employers over a 12-month period prior to your filing a claim.
If you meet that qualification, you must also:
- Be unemployed through no fault of your own
- Be able and available to work
- Be legally authorized to work in the US
The Alaska Department of Labor’s (DOL) unemployment insurance division requires that you register with their employment assistance service (Alaska Labor Exchange) within several days of filing a claim. If you don’t register, but receive benefits, you could have to repay the benefits you received, or face a delay in receiving money.
Eligibility Requirements Explained
Lost Your Job Through No Fault of Your Own
If you were laid off, your plant closed or moved away, you may be eligible for benefits. If you quit or your employer let you go because of some rule violation, you may not be eligible.
Able and Available
You must be mentally and physically able to work when you file your claim. You must also be available to accept an offer of suitable employment. “Suitable employment” is work you’re trained to do at a salary similar to what you’ve received in the past.
You must be a US citizen or be able to show proof you’re authorized to work in the US. In rare cases, H1-B visa holders may be eligible if their employer laid them off with a specific return date.
Monetary Qualification and the Base Period
To determine whether you meet the monetary qualification in Alaska, the unemployment division examiners will look at your wages from a covered employer over a 12-month period called the base period. The base period is the first four of the last five quarters prior to your filing a claim.
You must have earned at least $2,500 over two quarters of the base period.
If you don’t meet the qualification using this measure, the examiner will use an alternative base period. The alternative period will be the last four quarters prior to your filing a claim.
Calculating Your Benefit Amount and Duration
The unemployment division uses a formula to determine how much you’ll receive each week (your weekly benefit amount, or WBA). The division provides a worksheet on their website that you can use to estimate your WBA. You’ll need to have calculated your base period wages by quarter, and many people do not keep a record of their earnings, though it may be available online through your employer’s employee portal.
For most people, it will suffice to use the Benefits Table, which is attached to the worksheet. If you made most of your money during one quarter of your wages, you may have to use the benefit calculation formula to get an estimate.
The maximum and minimum benefits are set by law, and changes during the summer. Currently, the maximum is $370, and the minimum is $56. Even if your wages suggest you should receive more than the maximum, that’s the most the state will allow.
The duration of benefits is between 16 and 26 weeks. The state uses a formula to calculate your individual duration, based again on your base period wages. If you worked consistently during the base period, you will likely receive the max.
During times of high unemployment, the state or federal government will authorize additional weeks of payments beyond your max duration. Currently, no such program is in operation.
Shortly after you file your initial claim, the division will mail a Notice of Monetary Determination. The notice will contain all the information regarding your base period wages and discussed in this section. This notice is not an indication that your claim is approved. You will receive a separate notice regarding your eligibility.
How to File
Alaska encourages applicants to use the online claim filing system. However, you can call a UI claims center and file via the telephone. However you chose to file your initial claim, you will have to provide a significant amount of information.
- Your Social Security Number
- If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will need your alien registration number and work permit type or other documentation that authorizes your employment in the United States
- Name, mailing address and phone number of your last employer and the location where you reported to work
- Dates of your last employment, first and last day worked
- Earnings you made in the last week of your employment
- Other deductible income received in the last week of employment; such as vacation, severance or bonus pay.
- Federal employees are required to mail or fax copies of standard form SF8 and SF50, and when possible a Leave and Earnings Statement (LES)
- Ex-military personnel are required to mail or fax a copy of the DD214 member 4
Ex-military personnel can obtain these documents at archives.gov/veterans/
Ex-personnel of the Department of Defense can obtain records at www.dfas.mil
Biweekly Claims and Maintaining Eligibility
To receive benefits, you must request a payment every two weeks. This process is often referred to as “filing a continuing claim.” States require this to make sure you are maintaining the eligibility status you had when you were approved for benefits.
Using the online system will be easier for this process. You can even use a computer at a public library or at a UI claims center if you don’t have internet access at home. You may use the automated telephone filing system (VICTOR) to file your continuing claim. MyAlaska is available 24 hours a day, while VICTOR has limited hours, Wednesday through Saturday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Alaska Standard Time (AST).
- Anchorage (907) 277-0693
- Fairbanks (907) 451-6126
- Juneau (907) 586-4650
You will have to answer several questions meant to determine whether you continue to be eligible to receive benefits. The topics include:
- Whether you are able and available to work
- Whether you have started or quit a new job
- Whether you are looking for work
- Whether you have earned any wages
- Whether you refused an offer of suitable employment
You must report any wages or reportable income, or whether you refused an offer of employment. Failure to report these matters could result in a loss of benefits, as the state monitors hiring and wage information reported to the DOL.
You will have to report the job search efforts you’ve made over the week when filing a claim.
Part-time Work and Receiving Benefits
You can earn $50 without reducing your benefit payment, but you must report all the wages. Your benefit payment will be reduced by 75 cents for each dollar you earn over $50. If you do not know how much you earned at the time you report, call the UI claim center within seven days with the correct wage amount. Reporting less money than you earned could result in an overpayment of benefits that you will have to repay.
If you earned more than 1 1/3 times your WBA plus $50, you won’t get a payment that week.
Work Search Requirement
The state wants to make sure you’re looking for work. You must be able to show you are making a good faith effort by reporting your searches to the division. You should be able to make two verifiable job contacts if you live within 55 miles of a job center or in another state, one if you are in rural Alaska.
- The date of the contact
- Whom you spoke with/contacted
- How you made the contact (phone, Email)
- The result of the contact
The DOL may follow up on your searches at anytime. If you are not looking, or falsifying information, you could lose your benefits.
Some workers may be exempt from this requirement. The state will inform you if you are exempt. Those who are exempt may include:
- Those in state-approved training
- Those who have a specific return date
- Those in good standing with a union hall
Others may be tagged for participation in a program meant to help those who may have trouble finding work before their benefits expire. If you are asked to participate in such reemployment services, you must report to the DOL. If you don’t, the state may stop your payments.
Reasons for Denial of Benefits
If you do not meet the monetary eligibility requirements, the state will deny your claim for benefits. If you do meet the requirement, the state may deny your claim based on issues related to your separation from work. If your claim is successful, the state may suspend benefits or deny a weekly claim because you failed to remain eligible.
The examiner will look at the circumstances of how your employment ended. If you quit, the examiner will check to see whether you quit with good cause. If not, they will deny your claim. If you were discharged, they will look for evidence of misconduct. If the examiner believes such evidence exists, they will deny benefits.
A “good cause” to quit is one that shows something your employer did or failed to do left you with no other possible course of action but to quit. If your employer failed to pay you for an unreasonable period, that may be a good cause to quit. If your employer forced you to work in unsafe conditions, you may be eligible to receive benefits in spite of quitting work.
You will have to show that you made a reasonable, good faith effort to keep your job. Did you speak with your supervisor or Human Resources officer about the situation? Did you try repeatedly to remedy the situation before quitting?
Misconduct is defined as behavior that shows a disregard for your employer’s interests. For example, coming to work late frequently in spite of warnings from your boss will show the claims examiner that you disregarded your employer’s authority and interests. However, if you were late to work because of a serious illness and then your boss fired you soon after, your conduct may not rise to the level of misconduct in that case.
The decision whether to deny benefits based on misconduct is fact-dependent in some cases. You will have to show, for example, that the action that got you fired was a simple mistake in judgement or a situation beyond your control. Your boss may be able to fire you for many reasons; however, those reasons may not be misconduct as defined by unemployment law.
In determining whether you caused your separation from work, the examiner will contact your former employer for their side of the story. They may accept the employer’s word in many cases. You may have to argue your case on appeal.
The state may place a stop on your claim if you have not complied with some requirement, like failing to report starting a new job. They will make a determination whether you will continue to receive benefits.
What Happens When the State Denies Benefits
The DOL will mail a notice when it has determined whether you will be eligible for benefits. If the state denies your claim, you will have the opportunity to appeal that decision. The instructions for filing an appeal will be included with the notice.
Find out more about the appeals process at our page on filing an unemployment appeal in Alaska.
Department of Labor & Workforce Development
Employment and Training Services
Unemployment Insurance Program
PO Box 115509
Juneau, AK 99811-5509
You may use the MyAlaska portal to contact an examiner about your claim, or visit a claims center near you.
|Anchorage UI Claim Center
PO Box 241767
Anchorage, Alaska 99524-1767
(907) 269-4853 FAX
|Juneau UI Claim Center
PO Box 115509
Juneau, AK 99811-5509
(907) 465-5573 FAX
|Fairbanks UI Claim Center
675 Seventh Ave., Station M
Fairbanks, AK 99701
(907) 451-2870 FAX