Arkansas Unemployment – Know Your Rights
According to the Pine Bluff Commercial Appeal, the unemployment rate in Arkansas is near historic lows. At 4%, the employment rate for the state is well below the national average as 2016 ends. Despite a stable economy, unexpected job loss can happen at any time. Arkansas residents looking for a guide in how to navigate filing a successful claim for unemployment benefits can check with the State Department of Workforce Services.
Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits in AR
To be eligible to receive unemployment benefits, you must have been recently unemployed of course, and:
- Physically and mentally able to perform suitable work
- Available for suitable work
- Making a reasonable effort to find work
- Free of participation or direct interest in a labor dispute
You will have to wait a week after your separation from work to begin receiving benefits.
Explaining Unemployment Benefit Requirements in AR
The Department of Workforce Services calculates the amount you’ll receive based on your earnings in a particular period called the “base period.” A Base Period is defined as the first 4 of the last 5 completed calendar quarters. There are 4 quarters in a calendar year:
- The 1st quarter is January, February and March
- The 2nd quarter is April, May and June
- The 3rd quarter is July, August and September
- The 4th quarter is October, November and December
The benefit will be determined based on the wages from where you worked during a 12-month period.
- If you filed your initial claim in the 1st quarter of 2017 your Base Period is the 4th quarter of 2015 through the 3rd quarter of 2016.
- If you filed your initial claim in the 2nd quarter of 2017 your Base Period is the 1st quarter of 2016 through the 4th quarter of 2016.
- If you filed your initial claim in the 3rd quarter of 2017 your Base Period is the 2nd quarter of 2016 through the 1st quarter of 2017.
- If you filed your initial claim in the 4th quarter of 2017 your Base Period is the 3rd quarter of 2016 through the 2nd quarter of 2017.
If you don’t meet eligibility under the base period calculation, Arkansas uses an alternative method of calculating earnings. If you have earnings in the fifth quarter immediately preceding the quarter in which you filed, you may still be eligible.
The Notice of Monetary Determination will show you how the Workforce Department arrived at your benefit amount. They will mail you a copy if you are approved for benefits. If you believe the Department made an error in calculating, you can make a request for reconsideration. You may do this by mail or in person at a local Workforce Development office.
The maximum you will receive per week is $451. The maximum number of weeks you can receive benefits during a benefit year is 20 weeks.
The maximum amount you can earn during a benefit year (12-month period) is called the maximum benefit amount. It’s equal to the lesser of twenty-five (25) times the weekly benefit amount, or one-third (1/3) of the total base period wages.
During times of high unemployment, the federal government will extend unemployment compensation funds so that states may allow the unemployed to collect benefits for more than 20 weeks.
Able and Available
To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must be:
- Mentally and physically able to work
- Available to work any job significantly similar to work you have done or are trained to do
- To remain eligible, you must be actively looking for work, and must not turn down reasonable job offers
Losing your job through no fault of your own
If you voluntarily leave your job or your employer fires you for good cause, you will not be eligible for benefits. If you experience a layoff or if your job is phased out, you may be eligible for benefits. Seasonal employees who are dismissed for lack of work may also be eligible.
There are special situations where if you are fired or you quit, you may still be eligible.
If your employer fired you without good cause, you may be eligible for benefits. For example, your former employer may have falsely accused you of violating policy.
Your employer may have done something to make working conditions so bad that you had no choice but to quit. For example, they may have transferred you to another job location where it would be unreasonably difficult for you to travel there from home. These kinds of situations are called a “constructive discharge”
You will have to provide a statement regarding the circumstances of your dismissal when you apply for benefits. If you have proof of some wrongful discharge or constructive quit to submit along with your statement.
Working While Receiving Unemployment Benefits
Arkansas allows recently discharged workers to work part-time and still receive unemployment benefits. You must work less than 40 hours per week and your gross earnings must be less than 140% of your weekly benefit amount.
- If you make more than 40% of your weekly benefit amount, the Department will deduct from that amount. If your benefit amount is $200, you can earn up to $80 in a week before the Department deducts part-time pay. So then, if you make $100 that week, the Department will deduct $20 from your weekly benefit amount.
- You must report your earnings for the week that you worked, not the week in which you were paid.
- You must remain available for any reasonable job offer even if you are working part-time, and must remain active in your job search.
You may receive income other than wages from part-time employment while you are receiving benefits, like separation pay or vacation pay from your previous employer. You must report this income as well.
How to File for Unemployment Benefits in AR
As soon as you are aware of a pending dismissal, you should apply for benefits. You will fill out an application that is available online at EZARC, the Workforce Department’s online portal. There, you will find instructions on how to apply. The Department requires that you file your initial claim online.
You will only need a few pieces of information when you apply.
- Social security number
- Your contact information
- Your employer’s address and phone number
- Proof that you are allowed to work in the US (if not a citizen)
- Your banking information if you are planning to have your benefits deposited electronically
If there are special circumstances regarding your claim, you may receive a call from the Department, asking you to visit a local job center to complete the process.
If you were dismissed from the military or a federal job, you will need the appropriate separation papers for each.
How to Get Weekly Unemployment Benefits in AR
Arkansas requires you to file a weekly claim for benefits after your initial claim is approved. Each week, the Department will deposit your benefits directly to your bank or to a debit card. Arkansas does not send unemployment benefit checks.
If you are requesting a debit card, you should receive it within 5-7 business days of filing your initial claim.
You will file your weekly claim online or by telephone. To file your weekly for benefits access www.arknet.arkansas.gov or call 1-501-907-2590
You will have to confirm that you continue to remain eligible for benefits by answering a few questions:
- That you are not working a full-time job
- That you are able and available to work
- That you are actively looking for full-time employment
Looking for Work While Receiving Benefits
The Workforce Services Department offers federally mandated assistance for job seekers. It is free of charge. As the Department requires a record of your job searches and contacts, participating in the training will count as a job search.
Workforce Services will only consider job searches that resulted in you contacting someone.
If you have performed any part-time work during the week you are filing the weekly claim, you must notify the Department of your gross income for that week. Failure to do so could subject you to legal trouble. You could lose your right to collect unemployment.
File the week following the Saturday of your initial claim. You must file within the calendar week after each Saturday thereafter.
The pay schedule is:
|Week is claimed on:||Benefits deposited to the Debit Card or bank account on:|
What Happens if My Claim for Unemployment Benefits is Denied
If you are denied benefits, you may appeal the decision to the Arkansas Department of Labor Appeals Tribunal. You have twenty (20) calendar days from the date the Department mailed you the notice that you were denied benefits to file an appeal. The clock starts running from that date, not when you received it.
If you file after the 20-day period has passed, the Appeals Tribunal will hold a hearing on whether your appeal should be considered timely. You will have to show a good cause for missing the deadline. The standard for a “good cause” in Arkansas is that late filing was due to “circumstances beyond your control.”
If you show good cause for being late, the Appeals Tribunal will schedule a new hearing so that you may argue the merits of your appeal of the original denial of benefits. If your timeliness appeal fails, you will be denied benefits.
If you are denied benefits, please visit our section on appealing benefits decision in Arkansas.
The Arkansas Division of Workforce Services has a wealth of information to assist you in filing a claim for unemployment benefits. You can visit their web site to find assistance on filing a claim or look for help with any special situations that may arise. You may have received a copy of the Unemployment Insurance handbook. There is a copy available for download online. It is comprehensive and may answer any questions not covered in this document.