At the end of 2016, Idaho’s employment rate is well below the national average according to an article in the Washington Times. Yet, the unemployment benefit payouts are up slightly from the same time in 2015. As workers continue to find new jobs, the turnover cycle begins anew. If you find yourself with a new job in an uncertain economic landscape, it’s best to be familiar with the process for receiving unemployment benefits. Don’t get caught by surprise should you fall on unfortunate circumstances.
Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits in ID
To receive unemployment benefits in Idaho, you have to clear two general hurdles; you must meet the monetary eligibility requirement and personal eligibility requirements.
To meet the monetary eligibility requirements, you must have earned enough wages within a 12-month period prior to your initial claim for benefits.
To meet the personal eligibility requirements, you must:
- Be completely or partially unemployed, or have your wages significantly reduced
- The circumstances of your separation from work or wage reduction must be through no fault of your own
- You must be able and available to accept any reasonable job offer
- You must make a serious effort to find work
Explaining Eligibility Requirements in ID
Losing a job
To be eligible for unemployment benefits, the separation from work cannot be your fault. It can’t be a voluntary quit, and it can’t be because of something you did to get fired, like violating employer policy. In some situations when you were fired or quit, you may still be eligible for benefits.
Able and Available
You must be physically and mentally able to work. You must also be available to accept any reasonable job offer. A reasonable offer would be for work that you’re trained to do, obviously capable of doing and with a similar salary.
If you are sick, disabled or pregnant and cannot work, you would not be able and thus disqualified. If you are in school and your class schedule prevents you from working, you would not be available.
A Serious Effort to Find Work
The state requires participation in job search assistance as a prerequisite for collecting unemployment benefits. Idaho also requires you to list your job contacts whenever you file a continuing claim for benefits. You may be asked to participate in targeted job search assistance, and participation is mandatory.
The Department requires job searches to result in “valid contacts.” The effort must go beyond searching job websites or want ads. You need to make two contacts per week.
- Contact someone with hiring authority and send a resume, even if they don’t have an opening.
- Emailing someone you know.
- Asking at your old job
- Any completed job application
Monetary Eligibility and the Base Period
In Idaho, you must earn enough money within a 12-month period to be eligible for unemployment benefits. The period, called the base period, begins one quarter (3 months) prior to the month in which you filed your claim. Described another way, it’s the first four quarters out of the last five before you filed.
- You must have sufficient earnings in the base period
- You must have worked and been paid wages for employment in at least two of the quarters in the base period
- AND have been paid at least $1,872 in wages in one of those quarters
- AND the total wages paid in your base period must equal one and a quarter times your highest quarter wages
Amount of Unemployment Benefits in ID
The state does not offer a maximum and minimum figure, leaving you to do the math yourself. Other observers note that the minimum weekly benefit amount is $72 and the maximum is $410.
Idaho issues benefit payments either by direct deposit or to a bank-issued debit card.
Direct deposit payments go to your bank account. You will need routing information, your account number and an email address for direct deposit.
If you chose the debit card option, the bank will mail you the card when you apply. You should receive the card within three weeks of filing the claim. Generally, this would be around the time you begin receiving payments if you are eligible.
Duration of Unemployment Benefits in ID
The Department uses a ratio of wages earned to weeks worked in determining how long you will receive benefits. The minimum is set by legislation at 10 weeks, the max is 26 weeks. The number of weeks of benefits you can receive will vary between 10 weeks at a minimum and 26 weeks at a maximum. Whether you receive your full weekly benefit amount will also be a factor. The formula is a ratio of your total base period wages divided by your highest base period quarter.
In general, if you worked continually through your base period, you will likely receive the maximum time. If you worked sporadically, you’ll receive less time.
Part time and partial unemployment
If you work less than full-time during a calendar week, you can collect unemployment benefits for that week. However, you may see a reduction in benefits if certain conditions exist.
If you earn 1 1/2 times your weekly benefit amount or more, you will no longer be able to receive benefits if you earn this amount for two consecutive weeks. The Department will not consider you to be unemployed, and you will have to reopen your claim.
If you earn less than 1/2 of your weekly benefit amount, there will be no reduction in your unemployment insurance check.
If you earn between 1/2 your weekly benefit amount and 1 1/2 times your weekly benefit amount, a dollar for dollar reduction will occur on your unemployment insurance benefit check.
Other monetary issues
If you receive a pension from the employer where you worked for at least the last 18 months, your benefits may be reduced, but only if you did not contribute to the fund at all. If you contributed anything, you won’t see any reduction in benefits.
If you receive regularly scheduled severance payments, this is income you have to report. Take the lump sum amount and divide it over the weeks you receive benefits. Report the weekly estimate.
How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits in ID
The Department requires that you either file your claim online at the claimant portal or at a local office. You will still use the portal at the local office; however, if you don’t have ready Internet access, they can help you get online.
You will need an Email address to file your claim on the claimant portal.
Idaho uses identity verification for those filing for unemployment benefits. This means the state will check the information you provide in the portal with information they have on file in other agencies.
IF THE DEPARTMENT CANNOT VERIFY YOUR IDENTITY, YOU WILL NOT BE PAID UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS
You will need some pieces of information to complete your claim. You will need to prove your identity and that you are legally allowed to work in the United States.
- Social Security number
- State-issued ID (e.g. driver’s license)
- The correct, current contact information for your employer, including address and telephone number for all employers for the two years before your claim
- Dates employed
- Total gross earnings (your tax information should have it if you haven’t kept pay stubs)
- The reason for the separation from work from ALL employers from that period
- Federal or military employees should have the appropriate separation forms for those occupations
If you were in the military during that period, you will need the discharge paperwork even if you are claiming wages from other employers.
Weekly Certifications for Unemployment Benefits in ID
To ensure that you maintain eligibility requirements, the state requires you to file weekly claims for benefits. It is often referred to as “certifying” for weekly benefits. We will use the terms interchangeably.
The weekly certification process is similar to filing an initial claim. In Idaho, you certify each week online. The benefit week begins on Sunday. So then, the first time you file will be the Sunday after the week you file your claim.
You can file anytime, but optimally, you should file before 6PM. If you file after that time, your claim will be processed on the next business day.
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It’s best not to skip a week when certifying weekly. If you forget, you have a bye week that you can make up. If you skip two consecutive weeks, you will have to reopen your claim.
When you certify, the system will ask you several questions about your current status.
- Whether you were physically and mentally able to work
- Whether you were available for work
- Whether you refused any work
- Whether you were hired or fired that week
- Whether you were in school or received any job training. A positive response to this question will trigger a phone call.
- Whether you performed any work that week (any wages including self-employment)
- Whether you earned any other income and how much
- If required, whether you made any job contacts
The answers to some of these questions will prompt a call from the Department some time after you file that week. They will ask for clarifications on your answers. For example, if you said you were fired from a job, the Department will want a clarification.
How you answer these questions can determine whether you receive benefits for that week.
Reasons for Denial of Benefits
If you don’t meet the eligibility requirements, the unemployment examiner will deny your claim for benefits.
Denial on monetary basis
The Department will issue a notice of monetary determination after you apply for benefits. It will tell whether or not you meet the minimum requirements for benefits. If you are eligible, the notice will tell you how much the Department determined your weekly benefit amount would be.
You can appeal the monetary determination if you disagree with it. Double-check your math before you go through with the appeals process.
The notice that informs you of eligibility is a different document.
Denial on personal basis
If your separation was based on some action you caused, your benefits will be denied. Actions deemed your fault could range from quitting to being fired for something you did or failed to do. The Department refers to these as “separation issues” and they must be resolved before you can become eligible.
You may also be denied benefits if you are unable to work. If you have a medical issue that prevents you from working, you will not be able to work.
Quit or Fired but Still Eligible for Unemployment Benefits
There may be circumstances under which you may have left work voluntarily or were fired, yet you could still be eligible to receive benefits. Your employer may have allowed working conditions to deteriorate so that it affected a medical problem. You decided it was best for your health to quit. The unemployment examiner may consider the employer’s actions a constructive discharge, meaning that they did something to cause you to leave.
You will have to explain the circumstances behind your separation from work when you apply for benefits. If you were in some situation where you believe your employer did something to cause you to quit, you will have to support your position. For example, you will have to provide medical information to support a claim your employer did something to force you to leave. You may also have to show you tried to address the situation with your employer before quitting.
If you are denied benefits, please visit our section on appealing benefits decision in Idaho.
For further information on filing for unemployment or filing an appeal, please review these online resources: