Arkansas (AR) Unemployment Guide

Calendar Icon Updated February 26, 2019
Unemployment

 

Introduction

In Arkansas, the Department of Workforce Services administers the state’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits program.  Benefits are paid to workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and who meet all eligibility requirements.  UI 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 pay.  Workers do not pay any portion of the benefits, and no deductions are made from their paychecks.

How unemployment insurance works in Arkansas

Here’s a quick overview of how the unemployment insurance process works in Arkansas:

  1. Before you apply, make sure you meet all eligibility requirements. Some of the more important requirement 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 are ready, able and willing to accept a suitable job offer.
  2. File an initial claim.  To file an initial claim, gather required information and then you must complete an Application for Unemployment Insurance Benefits on the WDS website.  Filing a claim should take about 30 minutes
  3. Determine the amount of your benefit.   After you file an Initial Claim, you will 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 WDS if you want to challenge the amount.
  4. Determine the number of weeks you can draw benefits.  If you continue to meet all eligibility requirements, you can receive payments for up to 25 weeks within a one year period.
  5. Know how and when you will be paid. You will receive a debit card and your benefits will be loaded onto that card, or you can choose direct deposit into your bank account.
  6. Conduct an ongoing job search.  You are 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.
  7. You can file an appeal if you are denied benefits.  If you are denied benefits, then you can file an appeal to challenge your eligibility determination.

Eligibility requirements

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 are suitable for due to past experience or training your have 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.  You will be required to contact a certain number of employers each week.  This number will be assigned to you when you file your initial application.  You will need to keep a record of your contacts and present them as required by DWS who will verify your efforts.  ou will be required to report your job contacts beginning with the 13th or 19th week of unemployment compensation.
  • You may be eligible for partial benefits if you work part-time and earn less than 140% of your Weekly Benefit Amount.  You will need to report your earnings and whether you are working full- or part-time.

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 are 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 will be sent a Notice of Agency Determination, advising you of the DWS decision.  If you are disqualified, you will receive an explanation.  You have the right to appeal that decision if you so choose.

How to file a claim

Before you file a claim

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
  • If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will also need your Alien Registration Number
  • If you served in the U.S. military during the preceding 18 months, you will also need your DD-214 Member Copy 4 form
  • If you worked for the federal government during the preceeding 18 months, you will need your SF-8 form, if available.

Filing an initial claim

To file an initial claim, you must complete an Application for Unemployment Insurance Benefits on the WDS website.  Filing a claim should take about 30 minutes.  After you submit your application, you will get a Confirmation page which you should print out and save for your records.

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 are 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, you will 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.  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 online system.

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 WDS 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.  You weekly claim for benefits must be filed within the 7-day period immediately following the Saturday of the week you are claiming.

You can file your ongoing weekly claims through ArkNet.  ArkNet is a timed program and you will have 15 minutes to complete all questions after you have logged in.

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 pm and Monday through Friday, 6 am to 6 pm.  Services are available in both English and Spanish.  To file by phone, you will need to have your Social Security number, your PIN, and your total gross earnings and hours worked for the week you are claiming.  You will create your Personal Indentification Number (PIN) when you set up your initial claim.

How much will I be paid?

Currently, the minimum amount of UI 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 UI benefits for up to 25 weeks.

You will be paid a UI 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 will 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 quarter immediately preceding the quarter in which the initial claim is led.

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.

There are several types of payments you receive that can affect your weekly benefit amount.  These types of income have to be reported and can include:

  • 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 possible criminal penalties and will be required to repay any UI benefits you received.

When and how will I be paid?

You have two choices for receiving benefit payments.  Weekly claims are processed the night your file your weekly claim.  It takes approximately two working days to have your claim processed and funds deposited to your account.

Debit card.  After you have claimed your first payable week, it takes 5-7 business days to process your claim and to receive your debit card.

Direct Deposit.  You will need to have your banking information available when you file your initial claim if you choose this option.

You will be given the option for either when you file an Initial Claim.  You will receive your Unemployment Insurance Benefits on a debit card unless you choose the option to receive your benefits through direct deposit. You will have the option to setup this payment method on the Confirmation Page.

Looking for a job while claiming benefits

While you are claiming benefits, you must conduct a work search effort for full-time work.

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.  You will be required to contact a certain number of employers each week.  This number will be assigned to you when you file your initial application.  You will need to keep a record of your contacts and present them as required by DWS who will verify your efforts.  You will be required to report your job contacts beginning with the 13th or 19th week of unemployment compensation.   The week you must report 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 are 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 are 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 are attending approved training.
  • If you are 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.

What if I am denied benefits?

If you are 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 submit 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 are filing an appeal, you should continue to claim benefits for each week you are unemployed.  If your appeal is approved, you will be paid for those weeks, only if you have claimed them.

Key terms

Alternate Base Period – The four completed calendar quarters prior to the calendar quarter in which a claim begins.

Base Period- The first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the calendar quarter in which a claim begins.

Benefit Week – A calendar week that starts at 12:01 a.m. Sunday and ends at midnight the following Saturday.

Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) – The amount payable to an individual for a payable week of unemployment.  In Arkansas, the minimum WBA is $81 and the maximum is $451.

Weekly Claim – Also known as weekly certification, a claim is filed very week so that a person can receive UI payments after an initial claim has been filed.

For more information

For general information about Arkansas Unemployment Insurance benefits, call the state’s Arkline at 501-907-2590.

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 Department of Workforce Services Local Offices.

 

Eligibility Team

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