Iowa Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

Eligibility Team
Researcher & Writer
November 15, 2017

Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) administers unemployment insurance benefits in the state of Iowa.  Benefits are made available to workers who meet all requirements and have lost their job through now fault of their own, such as when a plant closes, they are laid off or in other similar circumstances.

Benefits are paid entirely by employers who are covered by the Iowa Employment Security Law.  Unemployment insurance is not based on need.  It is intended to pay benefits to eligible individuals during periods of unemployment when no suitable work is available.

In addition, the IWD also offers job training, placement and reemployment services to help people in finding work as quickly as possible.

How unemployment works in Iowa

Here’s a quick overview of how the unemployment insurance process works in Iowa.

  • Before you apply, make sure you meet all benefit requirements.  You must meet all requirements to be eligible to collect unemployment insurance in Iowa.  This includes 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.
  • If you meet all benefit requirements, then you can apply for unemployment insurance.  Go online at here or apply in person at any IowaWORKS Center.  Go here for a list of locations across the state.
  • Determine the amount of your benefit.   After you apply, you will receive a Determination of Benefit Account document in the mail detailing your weekly Iowa unemployment amount.  Verify how the determination was reached and contact IWD if you want to challenge the amount or if you have questions.
  • Determine the number of weeks you can draw benefits.  Anyone filing an Iowa unemployment claim who remains eligible for benefits can receive payments for 26 weeks within a one year period.
  • Know how and when you will be paid.  During the third week that you have a benefit account is the earliest that you will receive a benefit payment.
  • 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.
  • Conduct an ongoing job search.  You are required to look for full-time work while drawing benefits.  In addition, you must file with IowaWORKS who will monitor your job search progress and provide you with training and other job search related benefits.
  • You can file an appeal if you are denied benefits.  If you are denied benefits, then you can request an appeal hearing to challenge your eligibility determination.

Iowa (IA) Unemployment Eligibility requirements

If you are applying for benefits for the first time after becoming unemployed, you will need to meet all initial requirements before you can collect benefits.  Those initial requirements include:

  • You are totally or partially unemployed
  • You have worked and earned enough wages in work covered by unemployment insurance in the last 15 to 18 months
  • You lost your job through no fault of your own.  This means you were not fired for cause from your previous employer due to misconduct of any kind, or for other similar circumstances.
  • You are ready, able and available to go back to work

To remain eligible for unemployment insurance after you have filed a claim, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Actively seek work, unless you meet certain criteria and your search requirement is waived
  • Be registered to find work with the IWD through the nearest IowaWORKS center or online at
  • Keep a record of all work search efforts and be ready to supply those records if they are requested
  • Contact IWD if you refuse a job offered or a referral on your weekly claim
  • Report if you quit or are discharged from any job while collecting benefits
  • Contact IWD if you move or leave the area where you live for more than three consecutive working days
  • Report all wages when they are earned, not when they are paid
  • Notify IWD if you receive workers’ compensation, pension money or any other type of pay
  • Alert IWD if you enroll or start in school of any kind

How to file a claim for unemployment in state of Iowa

Before you file an initial claim you will need to have the following information available:

  • Social Security number
  • Current/most recent employer’s name, address and phone number, including any part-time or staffing agency work you may have done
  • 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.
  • The name(s) and SSN of any dependents, up to a maximum of four

To initially apply for Iowa unemployment benefits…

Go online at or apply in person at any IowaWORKS Center.  Go here for a list of Iowa unemployment office locations across the state.

For additional assistance, contact IWD by phone at 866-239-0843, or by email at  Phone assistance hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm (excluding state holidays)

After you file your initial claim, you will need to file weekly claims.


Iowa's Requirements for filing weekly claims…

  • For every week you are unemployed or your working hours are reduced, you must file a weekly claim
  • If your eligibility is still under review, if you want to collect benefits for a particular week, you must still file a weekly claim
  • To request UI benefits, a person must certify the following:
  • They are currently unemployed or working a reduced amount of hours
  • They are able to work and they are available to work
  • They have not refused any job offers or referrals to jobs
  • They are actively looking for work unless that requirement has been waived
  • They have reported any pay or pension payment during the week they are filing

When to file your unemployment claim…

All current weeks end of Saturdays.  UI recipients are encouraged to file weekly claims between 9 am on Saturday through 11:30 pm on Sunday.  If you do not file during this period, your benefits could potentially be delayed.

To file a weekly claim, go here.

After you file, you will receive a confirmation that your claim has been successfully processed.  If you do not get a confirmation notice, you must repeat the process until you do.

You will receive confirmation that the claim has been processed successfully.

When and how will I be paid my IA unemployment?

Assuming that any issues have been resolved regarding your claim, you can expect to receive your first payment approximately three weeks after your initial application for benefits has been processed.  If you have eligibility issues that are unresolved, your payments may be delayed until they are taken care of.

  1. Payments through and IWD debit card
    You can choose to receive your benefit payment delivered to you via an IWD debit card.  The card is valid for three years and will be used for your current and any future claims you may file.  Benefit payments are deposited to the card three to four days after the weekly claim is filed.  Holidays may delay the payment.The debit card is issued and serviced through Bank of America.  When you first choose this option, your new card may take up to 10 business days to arrive.  You can monitor your account activity, such as checking account balances, reviewing transaction histories or signing up for deposit notifications by setting up an account at of America also maintains a 24/7 customer service phone number that you can call at 855-477-1137.  The TTY number is 866-656-5913.
  2. Direct deposit to your existing bank account is also an option.
    You can choose to have your UI benefit payments deposited to your checking or savings account.  Payments are generally deposited four to five days after the weekly claim is filed.To enroll in or update your direct deposit information, you must submit a Direct Deposit Agreement Form #60-0351.  The form can be accessed online here. It is the beneficiary’s responsibility to verify that their benefit payment is going to be deposited to the correct account, and to resolve any direct deposit errors directly with their financial institution.  IWD is not responsible for any incorrectly reported account information.

How much will I be paid?

Part of your eligibility to collect benefits is based upon whether or not you earned enough wages during your Base Period, or an Alternate Base Period.

The Base Period is a four quarter time frame that uses the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters at the time an initial claim is filed.  Qualified earnings determine how much you will collect each week (Weekly Benefit Amount) and how much you can collect overall (Maximum Benefit Amount).  The Alternate Base Period is used only when a person fails to qualify monetarily using their normal Base Period.

To be eligible for benefits an individual must have:

  • been paid wages by covered employers in two or more quarters of the base period
  • total base period wages of at least 1.25 times the wages earned in the highest base period quarter
  • wages of at least $1,570 in one quarter and at least $780 in a different quarter

The number of dependents a claimant has will also have an impact on the Weekly Benefit Amount and the Maximum Benefit Amount.  A person is allowed to claim up to four beneficiaries to increase the size of their claim.

To calculate the Weekly Benefit Amount, the high quarter of the base period is divided by:

  • 23 for zero dependents (maximum of $455)
  • 22 for one dependent (maximum of $473)
  • 21 for two dependents (maximum of $490)
  • 20 for three dependents (maximum of $516)
  • 19 for four dependents (maximum of $559)

The MBA is either 26 times the Weekly Benefit Amount or one-third of the total base period wages, whichever is less.

If the individual’s last employer permanently closed the business location, the Maximum Benefit Amount may be increased. It will be either 39 times the WBA or one-half the total base period wages, whichever is less. The WBA will not change.


Military Wages and how they affect unemployment in Iowa

Individuals who served on active military duty during their base period can file a claim as long as they are physically present in Iowa at the time they file.  To add military wages to a claim, a person must have served active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or at least 90 consecutive days of service in a U.S. Military Reserve Force.

The applicant must provide a copy of their DD-214 to determine if military wages can used for a UI claim.  If the request to add wages is denied, the individual will receive a decision with appeal rights.  The DD–214 can be submitted at any local IowaWORKS Center, by Fax to the UI Military Unit at 515-281-4057 or by mail to:

UI Benefits Bureau
PO Box 10332
Des Moines, IA 50306-0332

Looking for a job while claiming benefits

Individuals required to search for work must register for work with IWD online at or at the nearest IowaWORKS center. Registration must be completed within 10 days of filing an initial claim.  Failing to do so could result in a delay or a denial of benefits.

You must be able and available to work while claiming benefits.  If there is any condition that prevents this, you must notify IWD.  These situations may include illness, injury, vacation, being in jail, or no childcare or transportation, among others.

If you are offered a job that is considered suitable work, you must accept the position, unless waived by IWD.  Factors used to determine suitability include wage, length of unemployment, working conditions and job duties.

Wage requirements are calculated using wages earned during the high quarter in your base period.  The high base period quarter is divided by 13, which is the number of weeks in a quarter to calculate the average weekly wage (AWW).

A job offer may be considered suitable if the offered wages are at or above the following percentages of the AWW:

• 100% if work is offered in the first five weeks of a claim

• 75% if work is offered during the 6th through 12th week of a claim

• 70% if work is offered during the 13th through 18th week of a claim

• 65 % if work is offered after the 18th week of a claim

Individuals are not required to accept any job offers that are below the federal or state minimum wage.

Participating in RES and RESEA

IWD uses profiling to select some people to participate in eligibility review programs.  These include Reemployment Services (RES) and Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment (RESEA).

RESEA is an overall eligibility review of a UI claim. An IowaWORKS representative reviews a claimant’s weekly work search contacts. Other RESEA requirements include attendance at RES workshop orientation, completion of National Career Readiness Certificate testing, and participation in other specialized workshops.

These reviews can take place during the first five weeks of claims and look at factors such as occupation, industry , education, length of employment, wages, and more.

RES and RESEA are designed to assure individuals are registered for work with IWD and to provide customized reemployment services. If selected, participation is mandatory.

Individuals selected to take part in either program will receive a letter outlining which program they have been selected for , where to report, and what documents to bring.

What if I am denied my Iowa unemployment benefits?

A claim may be denied or an employer has the right to protest the awarding of benefits in Iowa.  If a claim is protested, IWD may arrange a fact-finding interview which is conducted by phone.  The individual and the employer will receive

a Notice of Unemployment Insurance Fact-Finding Interview letter containing the scheduled date, time, and the phone number where the individual will be called for the interview.

After the fact-finding interview, an eligibility decision will be mailed to the individual and employer and either party can appeal the decision if they disagree.

The First Level Appeal will allow testimony to be presented to an Administrative Law Judge either by phone or in person.  It can also be mailed or submitted online as long as it is received by the appeal deadline listed in the decision letter.

For appeals assistance, contact the Appeals Bureau by email at or by phone at 515-281-3747 or 800-532-1483.

If the individual is still unemployed, they should keep fling weekly claims during the appeal process.

Either party can submit additional evidence at the hearing, so participation is important. If an individual chooses to hire an attorney to attend the hearing, the individual will be responsible to pay the full expenses for the attorney.

The administrative law judge will make an impartial decision based on the information presented at the hearing and the contents of the individual’s file.  A decision should be mailed within 14 days.

A Second Level Appeal can take place if either the employer or individual disagrees with the administrative law judge’ s decision. It may be appealed to the Employment Appeal Board.  The appeal must be postmarked within 15 calendar days from the mailing date of the administrative law judge’s decision.

The Employment Appeal Board does not hold hearings. The board decides each case by reviewing all the evidence that was presented to the administrative law judge.

The board may:

  • affirm or reverse the administrative law judge’s decision or
  • send the case back to the administrative law judge for further review or
  • order a new hearing and decision if the evidence in the administrative law judge’ s hearing is not sufficient or incomplete.

It usually takes 45 to 75 days from the date the appeal is fled to receive the Employment Appeal Board decision.

If an employer or individual disagrees with the Employment Appeal Board decision, either can file a petition for judicial review in Iowa District Court or request a rehearing before the Employment Appeal Board.

Key terms to understand unemployment insurance benefits

Appeal - The right of interested parties to challenge a determination on the basis the determination is not legally correct or has been based on incorrect or incomplete facts. All appeals must be in writing, and must be fled by the specified deadline.

Appeal Hearing -  A formal proceeding held by an Administrative Law Judge to consider an appeal concerning benefits or an employer’s tax liability.

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.

Benefit Year -  A one-year period beginning with the Sunday in which the valid initial claim for UI benefts is filed.

Claiming Benefits - To receive a benefit payment after filing an initial claim for benefits, an individual must certify their eligibility by filing a weekly claim.

Effective Date - The date a Benefit Year begins. UI claims always begin on a Sunday.

Initial UI Claim - An application by a worker for a determination of eligibility for UI and computation of weekly and maximum benefit amounts.

Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) - The amount payable to an individual for a payable week of unemployment.

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

Iowa Unemployment Insurance Customer Service
Phone: 866-239-0843
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm (excluding state holidays)
Notice: All Unemployment Insurance calls are recorded for quality assurance. 

Filing a Claim
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm

Weekly Claim Reporting
Hours: Saturday 9 am through Sunday 11:30 pm

UI Appeals
Phone: 800-532-1483
Fax: 515-478-3528
Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 4:30 pm

Report Fraud
Phone:  866-239-0843

Work Registration

If you have any questions concerning registration for work or general unemployment insurance questions, contact your nearest IowaWORKS Center.  Go here for a list of statewide locations.

Eligibility Team
Written by
Eligibility Team
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