COVID-19 UPDATE: Because the coronavirus pandemic has left so many Americans jobless, the federal government has given states more flexibility in granting unemployment benefits. If you have questions about whether you’re eligible for unemployment benefits read our COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits and Insurance FAQ and check out Arkansas claimant handbook.
Arkansas Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility
A guide to unemployment benefits in Arkansas
In Arkansas, the Division of Workforce Services administers the state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits program. These benefits are paid to workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and who meet all eligibility requirements. Unemployment benefits are designed to provide protection against a loss of income until beneficiaries are able to find full-time work again.
Employers pay for UI benefits through a tax they are required to remit. Workers do not pay any portion of the benefits, and no deductions are made from their paychecks.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
How do I file for unemployment insurance in Arkansas?
Here’s a quick overview of how the unemployment insurance process works in Arkansas:
- Before you apply, make sure you meet all eligibility requirements. Some of the more important requirements include determining that you have earned enough wages during your Base Period or an Alternate Base Period, that you became unemployed through no fault of your own, and that you’re ready, able, and willing to accept a suitable job offer.
- Gather necessary documents and information. Before you file a claim for benefits, you should gather several pieces of information:
- Social Security number
- Current address and telephone number
- Contact information for all employers you have worked for in the past 12 months
- The start and end dates for current/most recent employer
- Your Alien Registration number if you’re not a U.S. citizen
- Your DD-214 Member Copy 4 form if you served in the US military during the preceding 18 months
- Your SF-8 form, if available, if you worked for the federal government during the past 18 months
- Submit an initial claim. You must fill out an Application for Unemployment Insurance Benefits on the DWS website. Filing a claim should take roughly 30 minutes.
- Choose how you will be paid. You have two options for receiving your benefits. You can receive a debit card loaded with your benefit amount, or you can choose direct deposit to have your benefits sent to your bank account.
- Wait to learn your benefit amount. After you file an Initial Claim, you’ll receive a Notice of Monetary Determination. This shows the amount of wages that have been reported by your employers during the quarters in your Base Period. Verify the information is correct and contact DWS if you want to challenge the amount.
- Determine the number of weeks you can draw benefits. If you continue to meet all eligibility requirements, you can receive payments for up to 16 weeks within a one year period—though federal guidelines may extend your eligibility.
- Conduct an ongoing job search. You’re required to look for full-time work while drawing benefits. As part of this effort, you must file with DWS Employment Services. Your job search efforts will be monitored and you may be required to attend employment training if selected.
- You can file an appeal if you’re denied benefits. If you’re denied benefits, then you can file an appeal to challenge your eligibility determination.
Where do I submit my claim?
Filing an initial claim
To file an initial claim, you must complete an Application for Unemployment Insurance Benefits via Easy Arkansas Claims (EZARC). The online application is available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Filing a claim online should take about 30 minutes. After you submit your application, you’ll get a confirmation page which you should print out and save for your records.
Arkansas has set up a temporary claims processing hotline for filing by phone. Call 844-908-2178 or 501-534-6304 on any weekday between 8:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
When you file an initial claim, you establish a Benefit Year. The Benefit Year is the 12-month period beginning with the first day of the calendar quarter in which a valid claim is filed. If you’re paid all of your benefits before your Benefit Year ends, you cannot file another claim until your Benefit Year ends.
After you file an Initial Claim, your Notice of Monetary Determination will show the amount of wages that have been reported by your employers during the quarters in your Base Period. These wages are what is used to determine how much your Weekly Benefit Amount will be. If you find errors in the Determination, you should immediately contact a local DWS office and file a Request for Reconsideration. You have one year to file the request from the date shown on the Monetary Determination.
Your claim will become inactive if you do not claim benefits for one or more weeks. You should stop filing for benefits when you go back to work full-time. To reactivate your claim, you must submit another application through EZARC.
If you worked in more than one state during your Base Period, you can combine your wages from all states into a combined claim, as long as you have at least one quarter of wages that you earned in Arkansas. Work with a local DWS office to complete this type of claim.
Filing a weekly claim
Unemployment claims on a weekly basis are based on a calendar week beginning on Sunday and ending at midnight on the following Saturday. Your weekly claim for benefits must be filed within the 7-day period immediately following the Saturday of the week you’re claiming.
You can file your ongoing weekly claims through ArkNet. The process takes 10–15 minutes to complete.
You can also call the state’s ArkLine at 501-907-2590 to claim your week by phone. ArkLine is available Sunday from midnight to 6 p.m. and Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Services are available in both English and Spanish.
To file by phone, you’ll need to have your Social Security number, your PIN, and your total gross earnings and hours worked for the week you’re claiming. You’ll create your Personal Identification Number (PIN) when you set up your initial claim.
What are the eligibility requirements to qualify for unemployment benefits in Arkansas?
You must meet several requirements to be eligible to collect unemployment insurance benefits in Arkansas:
- You must be either partially or fully unemployed.
- You must be mentally and physically able to perform work that is similar to work you have done in the past or for other work that you’re suitable for due to past experience or training you’ve received.
- You must be available for work. There should be no circumstances that would keep you from working such as transportation or childcare issues.
- You must have earned enough wages during your Base Period to meet the monetary eligibility requirements.
- You must contact DWS if there are any circumstances that affect your availability for work. This can include starting a new business or becoming self-employed, working on a contract or commission basis, or attending school or training of any kind.
- You must actively seek work. This can include contacting employers, completing applications in person or online, or other reasonable efforts to secure work.
- You must register with the DWS Employment Services and you’ll be required to contact a certain number of employers each week.
- You may be eligible for partial benefits if you work part-time and earn less than 140% of your Weekly Benefit Amount. You’ll need to report your earnings and whether you’re working full- or part-time.
What if I am denied benefits?
You may be denied benefits for several possible reasons. Some of the more common reasons include:
- If you quit your job without good cause or you’re fired for misconduct.
- You refuse to accept work or you refuse a recall after being laid off.
- You did not claim your weekly benefits in a timely manner.
After you apply for benefits, you’ll be sent a Notice of Agency Determination, advising you of the DWS decision. If you’re disqualified, you’ll receive an explanation. You have the right to appeal that decision if you so choose.
How do I appeal a denial of benefits?
If you’re denied benefits, you can file an appeal with the Arkansas Appeal Tribunal.
To do so, you must visit the nearest DWS local office and complete an appeal form, or you can mail an appeal in writing to
Arkansas Appeal Tribunal
P.O. Box 8013
Little Rock, AR 72203
Your appeal must be submitted within 20 days of the date that your denial decision was mailed to you. Be sure to clearly state the reasons for your appeal, include your name, address, and Social Security number, and attach a copy of the determination that was mailed to you.
While you’re filing an appeal, you should continue to claim benefits for each week you are unemployed. If your appeal is approved, you’ll be paid for those weeks only if you’ve claimed them.
How much will I be paid?
Currently, the minimum amount of unemployment benefits you can receive in Arkansas is $81 per week. The maximum is $451 per week. Your weekly benefit amount in Arkansas will be one twenty-sixth of your earnings in the highest paid quarter of the base period. In Arkansas, you can receive benefits for up to 16 weeks.
You’ll be paid a benefit based on how much your employer paid you during a 12-month period called your Base Period. It is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the quarter that you file your initial claim. The greater the amount of money you earned during your Base Period, the larger your Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) will be until you reach the maximum amount payable under Arkansas law.
If you do not meet minimum wage requirements during your Base Period, you’ll be allowed to use earnings from an Alternate Base Period to help you qualify for benefits. The Alternate Base Period is the four completed calendar quarters immediately preceding the quarter in which the initial claim is filed.
All applicants must serve a Waiting Period Week. During this week, you must file a claim for benefits, but you will not be paid for that week. However, Arkansas waived this waiting period for claims filed from March 16 to April 18, 2020.
There are several types of payments you receive that can affect your weekly benefit amount. These types of income have to be reported:
- Holiday Pay
- Vacation Pay
- Sick Pay
- Paid Time Off
- Bonus Pay
- Lump Sum Separation Pay
- Periodic Separation Pay
- Pay earned by participating in military drills
- Retirement Pay
If you do not report these earnings, you can be guilty of fraud. If convicted, you could face criminal penalties and will be required to repay any benefits you received.
How will I be paid?
When you submit your initial claim, you have two choices for receiving benefit payments:
- Debit card. After you have claimed your first payable week, you’ll receive your debit card in the mail.
- Direct deposit. You’ll need to have your banking information available when you file your initial claim if you want to choose this option.
You’ll automatically receive your Unemployment Insurance Benefits on a debit card unless you choose to receive your benefits through direct deposit. You can find the setup for the payment method on the Confirmation Page.
Do I have to look for a job to get Arkansas unemployment benefits?
While you’re claiming benefits, you must actively seek full-time work. This search can include contacting employers, completing applications in person or online, or other reasonable efforts to secure work.
You’ll also register with the DWS Employment Services and seek out employment opportunities each week. You’ll find out how many employers to contact each week after you submit your initial application. You’ll need to keep a record of your contacts and present them as required by DWS, who will verify your efforts. You’ll have to report your job contacts beginning with the 13th or 19th week of unemployment compensation—the week you start reporting your contacts depends on the area where you live or work.
Federal law requires DWS to offer extra job search assistance to some claimants. This assistance is provided through a Job Search Workshop that helps sharpen your skills in arranging job interviews, filling out applications, and much more. The workshop and materials are free, and if you complete the workshop it will count as a job contact for that week. If you’re selected to attend a workshop and refuse or do not show up, you could be denied benefits for the week.
There are certain instances when you may be exempted from conducting a work search:
- If your hours with your last employer have been reduced from full-time to part-time and you work at least 8 hours per week for this employer.
- If a new employer offers you full-time work that will begin within 10 weeks from the date the job was promised. You will need to provide written verification to DWS from the employer with the job offer and the start date.
- If you have been laid off or reduced to only part-time work but will be returning to full-time work within 10 weeks
- If you’re currently a member in good standing of a trade union that maintains a full-time hiring hall, your union hiring agent may act as your agent to help you meet work search requirements.
- If you’re attending approved training.
- If you’re required to report for jury duty.
- If you experience the death of an immediate family member, the work requirement will be waived for the day of the death and 6 consecutive calendar days thereafter.
- If you have a compelling personal emergency that requires you to withdraw from the labor market for less than 4 days of the week.
For more information
For general information about Arkansas Unemployment Insurance benefits, call the state’s ArkLine at 501-907-2590. You can also call the Arkansas Division of Workforce Service customer line at 855-225-4440 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Monday to Friday).
You can also get answers to questions by accessing the state’s unemployment insurance benefits website ArkNet.
Information is also available at any of the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services Local Offices.