Missouri Unemployment – Know Your Rights
Missouri workers should follow the ongoing battle in the state’s legislature over the unemployment benefits trust fund. In 2017, the state’s Republican legislators have proposed cutting the maximum amount of weeks a worker may receive benefits from 20 to 13 if the unemployment rate is below 6%. The unemployment rate in the state hasn’t been at that level since 2014.
With the maximum benefit weeks ranking at among the lowest in the nation, it is important for laid off workers to be able to maximize the benefits they do receive. This means knowing the proper procedure, rules of applying for unemployment benefits in Missouri and learning what to do if the state denies a claim.
Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits in MO
To be eligible to receive benefits, you must have worked for an employer covered by the state’s unemployment insurance law, and earned enough wages in that period to qualify. Even if you meet the financial qualifications, you must meet other requirements.
- You must have lost your job through no fault of your own.
- You must be a US citizen or have proof you are authorized to work in the US
- You must be able and available to work
The state will require that you remain eligible throughout the period in which you receive benefits. You must make a good faith effort to find work and remain available to accept work.
Eligibility Requirements Explained
Lost a Job Through No Fault of Your Own
This means that your actions or decisions cannot cause your separation from work. If you were laid off or your store closed, you may be eligible. The standard of eligibility under this issue is whether you quit for a good cause or were discharged for misconduct. A “good cause” for quitting will be circumstances that left you with no other choice but to quit. “Misconduct” is any action deemed to show a disregard for your employer’s interests. Some actions may get you fired, but may not rise to the level of misconduct.
Able and Available
You must be mentally and physically able to work when you file your claim. You must be available to accept a suitable job offer. A suitable job is one that you’re trained to do or capable of doing, and the pay should be similar to that which you’ve received in the past. The longer you go without work, the less important it becomes that the job you accept be “suitable.”
You must be a citizen to receive benefits or be authorized to work in the US.
Financial Requirements and the Base Period
The Department of Labor will observer your wages over a 12-month period called the “base period.” The base period will be the first four of the last five quarters prior to your filing a claim.
You must have earned at least $2,250—at least $1,500 during one of the calendar quarters, and at least $750 during the remainder of the year—from an insured employer during your base period. Your total base period wages must be at least 1.5 times the wages from your highest earning quarter. Alternatively, you can make at least $19,500 during two of the four base period quarters.
Calculating Your Benefit Amount
The state uses your base period wages to determine the amount you receive per week, the weekly benefit amount (WBA). They take 4% of the average of the two highest earning quarters in your base period to determine the WBA.
The maximum anyone can receive is $320 per week. Currently, the maximum amount of weeks you can get benefits in a year is 20 weeks.
The Department of Labor provides a widget for you to estimate your WBA at the DOL website.
The DOL will pay benefits via direct deposit or issue funds to a debit card. If you choose the debit card option when you file your claim, you will receive a card. This does not mean you will be approved for benefits.
When unemployment is high, the federal government may authorize an extension on the amount of weeks in which you may receive benefits (Emergency Unemployment Compensation). The state may also extend the time limit through the Extended Benefits program. Currently in Missouri, no extended benefits are available.
How to Apply for Benefits in MO
You may apply at the DOL website, Uinteract. You may also contact a Regional Claims Center to file, or get assistance with filing your claim.
It’s available 24 hours a day, except between 11:30pm Saturday and 12:31am Sunday, Central Time. Filing via telephone is also available. It’s open from 8am to 5pm Central Time, Monday-Friday, except holidays. Depending on your location, the number may be different. The locations are:
- Jefferson City RCC (573)751-9040
- Kansas City RCC (816)889-3101
- Springfield RCC (417)895-6851
- St. Louis RCC (314)340-4950
- All others please call (800)320-2519
Here is a list of information you must have available in order to file your claim:
- Social Security Number
- Personal Identification Number if you have filed a claim in the past
- Complete mailing address
- County you live in
- Last employers name, mailing address, and zip code
- Number of days and gross amount of any vacation or holiday pay you received from your last employer
- Earnings received if you worked during the week you file your claim
Former military or federal employees must have the appropriate separation paperwork available. Union members need to provide their hall number. Non-US citizens must provide an alien registration card. If you plan to receive benefits via direct deposit, you will need your bank account information including the routing number.
Maintaining Eligibility and Weekly Certification
The DOL requires that benefit recipients maintain their eligibility status while receiving benefits. To monitor this, the DOL asks you to file a claim each week (sometimes called “weekly certification” or “requesting a weekly payment”).
You will file the request by using the Uinteract system or by calling a claims center. Whichever method you choose, you will have to answer questions to verify your continued eligibility. The DOL is concerned whether:
- You remain able and available
- You started or quit a job
- You are looking for work
- You refused an offer of suitable employment
- You earned any wages or had any income during the week
If you did have earnings, you must report them when you file for the week you earned those wages, not the week you received payment.
Part-time Work and Benefit Payments
You may work part-time and continue to receive benefits. However, the amount you earn will affect your WBA. The state will deduct $20 from your weekly wages or 20% of your WBA from your WBA. You will keep your wages; the deduction only affects your WBA.
The state provides a partial benefit estimator widget on their website.
The state will reduce payments if you receive vacation or holiday pay, or if you receive pension payments from a base period employer.
Severance or termination pay will not affect your WBA, though it may affect your maximum payments. Call the claim center for more information.
If you owe child support payments, the state can garnish up to half your WBA to make up for the missing payments.
Work Search Requirement
Looking for work is an important part of maintaining eligibility. The Department of Employment Security (DES) will determine the extent of the job searches it deems necessary for you to remain eligible, and will notify you when you are notified you are awarded benefits.
You should keep a detailed record of your job searches, including contacts, applications and the date you made them. The DOL offers a job contact form on their website for you to use in keeping records. The DOL may request to see your contacts at any time.
The DOL notes that failure to accept job offers from former employers, through the DES or other state organizations could result in a loss of benefits. It isn’t clear whether you could refuse other kinds of offers.
Reasons for Denial of Benefits
The state will deny benefits if you do not have sufficient base period wages to qualify. If you do meet the wage earning requirement, the DOL may still deny benefits for various reasons.
If your actions or decisions caused your separation from work, the state will deny benefits. If you quit without a good cause connected to work, you will not qualify. If you are dismissed because of misconduct, the DOL will deny your claim.
Quit but Still Eligible
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?
Sometimes you may quit for reasons unconnected to work, like to attend school full-time. You may not receive benefits if you quit for reasons unconnected to work. However, “quits” that are unconnected to work may allow you to receive benefits. For example, if you had to move because of a natural disaster or because you are fleeing a domestic violence situation, you may still be eligible.
Fired But Still Eligible
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.
The DOL may deny benefits if:
- You fail to look for work or refuse a job offer
- Are not available to work
- Fail to report income properly
Barring an appeal on these issues, you will have to open a new claim if the state denies benefits. The state will restrict you from filing a claim for a period of time.
What Happens When Benefits are Denied in MO
You may appeal any determination by the DOL that goes against you. You will receive a Notice of the Deputy’s Determination if the state denies your claim. This Notice will include instructions on how to file your appeal. You will have a limited time period in which to file your appeal, so file as soon as possible.
If you are denied benefits, please visit our section on appealing benefits decision in Missouri.
The Missouri Department of Labor is your main source for the current information on unemployment benefits.
Find work or information about meeting the work search requirement at a Job Center
Watch videos about unemployment benefits on the DOL’s Youtube channel
View the DOL’s unemployment FAQ page
Follow the local media to monitor any potential changes in MO’s unemployment law
Use Email to contact the DOL with questions: