Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some initial questions many clients have when they first contact Lombardi Law Firm. The questions below may address many initial concerns you may have. If you don't find the answers here, you should contact us for answers to questions specific to your case. The consultation is free.
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My local IowaWORKS Center has asked me to come in to review my work search for Iowa unemployment benefits eligibility. Do I have to do that?
You might be called into your local IowaWORKS Center to review your work search. This is part of a program called Eligibility Review, to ensure that you are correctly following procedures and have realistic expectations in your job search. If you don’t respond or show up you may be denied benefits.
At your appointment you will be given an overview of services available at your local IowaWORKS Center that can help you become re-employed. You may be asked to return to the Center to utilize these services.
I receive Iowa unemployment benefits, and I have been asked to attend an interview with a Quality Control representative and verify my wages and work search contacts. Do I have to do that?
The Quality Control Program, which is required by the federal government, randomly selects claimants currently filing for benefits and reviews their claims. Being selected for review doesn’t mean you are suspected of wrongdoing. But if you refuse to cooperate, you might be denied benefits.
I receive Iowa unemployment benefits, and I’ve been notified that I need to participate in a program called Reemployment Orientation Workshop, Reemployment Eligibility Assessment or Emergency Unemployment Compensation REA. What is this and do I have to do it?
If you are selected for one of these programs, your participation is mandatory because it is a condition of eligibility for unemployment insurance. These programs are designed to get you back into the workforce quickly. They can help improve your skills in networking, interviewing, and writing résumés and cover letters, among other things. Iowa Workforce Development will tell you which program you have been selected to participate in, where to report, and what documents you should bring with you.
What amount of Iowa unemployment benefits am I eligible to receive?
Your weekly benefit amount depends on the number of dependents you claim and your gross wages from all covered employers in the high quarter (HQ) of your base period.
“Base period” refers to the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters immediately preceding the calendar quarter in which your claim for benefits is effective. Iowa Admin. Code r. 871-24.1(96) 24.1 (11). So if your claim for benefits was effective in January, February or March of 2014, your base period extends from September 2012 through September 2013. The “high quarter” is the quarter of the base period in which the claimant's wages in insured work were highest. Iowa Admin. Code r. 871-24.1(96) 24.1 (17). “Covered employment”, also called “insured work”, generally refers to any work where the employer has control or direction over the employee. Bauder v. Employment Appeal Bd., 752 N.W.2d 33 (Iowa Ct. App. 2008).
To calculate the amount you are eligible to receive, find out what you earned during the high quarter (HQ) of your base period. If you have already applied for benefits, you may have received a form called a Monetary Record that can help you figure this out.
If you have
your weekly benefit amount is
The amount you earned in your HQ, divided by 23,
with a maximum of
The amount you earned in your HQ, divided by 22,
The amount you earned in your HQ, divided by 21,
The amount you earned in your HQ, divided by 20,
4 or more dependents,
The amount you earned in your HQ, divided by 19,
How do I determine how many dependents I have for the purposes of receiving Iowa unemployment benefits?
There are a few rules for determining who can be a dependent.
- You can claim no more than four dependents.
- You can’t claim yourself as a dependent.
- You can claim your spouse as a dependent if he or she “did not work or worked and earned $120 or less in gross wages during the calendar week prior to the effective date of your claim”(excluding self-employment income).
- You can claim your children or others “if you are allowed to claim them under federal income tax guidelines and you claimed them this past tax year or will claim them in the current tax year.”
- Dependents cannot be used if someone else has claimed them on a current unemployment claim and that claim has not expired.
I’ve accepted a job offer! What happens to my Iowa unemployment benefits claim?
If you haven’t started your new job yet but you want to claim benefits between now and your first day, you have to continue to look for work. This is important because some job offers are subject to screenings and reference checks, and an employer may rescind an offer unexpectedly.
Let Iowa Workforce Development know that you got a job. If your job is full-time, stop calling in weekly continued claims.
If it’s a part-time job, you should keep calling in weekly continued claims, and keep track of your earnings using the Work Record form. Call in your earnings to Iowa Workforce Development when you earn them, not when you are paid. You should also be sure to continue to fulfill all of the requirements for unemployment insurance benefits.
While I’m receiving Iowa unemployment benefits, do I have to accept any job that I’m offered?
You don’t have to accept just any job that you’re offered, but you are required to accept suitable work. A job may be unsuitable if it risks your health, safety, morals, or physical fitness, if you would require prior training, or if it’s too far away. Other factors can make a job unsuitable as well.
Furthermore, work that pays significantly less than what you made at your old job may be considered unsuitable. Whether or not a job’s pay is suitable depends on its wage, the average weekly wage you earned during the high quarter of your base period, and how long it has been since you initiated your claim.
“Base period” refers to the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters immediately preceding the calendar quarter in which your claim for benefits is effective. So if your claim for benefits was effective in January, February or March of 2014, your base period extends from September 2012 through September 2013. The “high quarter” is the quarter of the base period in which your wages were the highest. If you have initiated your claim, you have probably received a form called a Monetary Record that tells you your base period and your high quarter earnings. The Monetary Record will also tell you when you initiated your claim, if you don’t already know that date.
Since a calendar quarter is 13 weeks long, the average weekly wage you made during your high quarter is the amount you made in your high quarter divided by 13. So if you made $6,500 during your high quarter, your average weekly wage is $6,500 divided by 13, or $500.
A job offer is considered not suitable if the wages offered are below
of your average weekly wage, and the work is offered during
the first five weeks of your claim.
the sixth through the 12th weeks of your claim.
the 13th through 18th weeks of your claim.
65% if work is offered after the 18th week of your claim.
This means that the longer it has been since you initiated your claim, the more likely you will have to accept work that pays less than what you earned when you were employed. However, you will never be required to accept work that pays below the federal or state minimum wage.
Continuing with the above example, if your average weekly wage was $500, then assuming a 40-hour workweek, you made $12.50 per hour. Let’s say you’re offered a job that pays $10.50 an hour. If you’re still in the first five weeks of your claim, that job offer is unsuitable because it is below 100% of your average weekly wage.
But 75% of $12.50 is $9.38. So if you’re offered a job with a wage of $10.50 and it has been between six and 12 weeks since you initiated your claim, the job offer is considered suitable and you must accept it as long as it’s not unsuitable in any other way.
I want to receive Iowa unemployment benefits. How do I register for work?
Registering for work is a requirement for eligibility to receive unemployment insurance benefits. You can register for work at an IowaWORKS Center or online. If you are temporarily unemployed and expect to be recalled by your employer in a reasonable amount of time, you may be informed that your work search is waived, and in this case you will not have to register for work.
Can the work search requirements for Iowa unemployment benefits be waived?
Certain people can be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits without engaging in a work search.
- If you are temporarily unemployed and you expect to be recalled by your employer in a reasonable period of time, your work search may be waived. You will be informed if your work search is waived, which will be determined when you apply for a new claim or reactivate an existing claim. You still must fulfill all the other requirements for benefits, and if your employer changes your “temporarily unemployed” status”, you have to notify Iowa Workforce Development and register for work so that you don’t risk being accused of fraud and thereafter be disqualified for benefits.
- Your work search may be waived if you are in school or in a training program. However, Iowa Workforce Development must approve the schooling or training beforehand.
- Union members who normally get a job through a union hiring hall are required to contact the hiring hall once each week, and this will fulfill their work search requirement.
What work search requirements must I fulfill to receive Iowa unemployment benefits?
In general, you have to make a minimum of two job contacts per week to stay eligible for unemployment benefits (Iowa Workforce Development may inform you otherwise if you tell them you are a student or partially employed). Each time you file a weekly continued claim, you will have to verify that you have been making these contacts.
It is important to keep track of your job contacts, because Iowa Workforce Development can require you to provide a copy of your work search history as a condition of getting benefits. You should use this form to record your job contacts. For each contact you need to record
- The date of the contact
- The company name
- Company address and telephone number, and
- The name of the person you contacted.
In general, follow these rules for making job contacts:
- You must make contacts, even if you are working part-time.
- Your job contacts must be made between Sunday and Saturday of the week you are claiming benefits. You may make your job contacts in person, by Internet, by on-line applications, mail, or faxing résumés. Telephone contacts for jobs are not acceptable.
- Your work search must be a reasonable and honest effort to find suitable work and you must be willing to accept a reasonable wage in your area for the job for which you are applying.
- Repeat or follow-up work searches may be made to the same employer after six weeks from the initial contact.
- Applying for multiple positions under one employer can make you ineligible for benefits. You need to apply for positions with different employers. See https://www.lombardilaw.com/blog/unemployment-benefits-job-search-should-include-different-employers.cfm.
If the customary means of securing employment in your occupation is by supplying a résumé, you may be able to fulfill your work search requirement by applying in this manner. But in order to do so, you must first seek and receive approval by Iowa Workforce Development. Any résumés you send must either be presented in person, or sent to an employer by mail, fax, or online--not addressed to a post office box number.