Iowa Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

In this article...
  • If you're out of work for reasons outside your control, you can apply for unemployment benefits. Learn about eligibility for unemployment benefits in Iowa.

Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) manages the state's unemployment insurance program. This program provides financial support to unemployed citizens if they meet the eligibility criteria. The following information explains who can receive unemployment benefits in Iowa and how to apply.

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Iowa?

Monetary Eligibility

The IWD determines your eligibility by adding together your earnings during a base period. This period is the first four quarters of the last five before you file for benefits. If you didn't earn enough to qualify, the IWD may allow you to use an alternate base period. You should email or call 1-866-239-0843 to ask to use the alternate base period.

The monetary eligibility requirements for Iowa unemployment benefits are:

  • Income from covered employers (employers making unemployment insurance premium contributions) in at least two base period quarters
  • Total earnings exceeding 1.25 times what you received in the quarter when your wages were the highest
  • A minimum of $1,820 earned in one quarter
  • A minimum of $910 earned in any other quarter

Non-Monetary Eligibility

You can claim Iowa unemployment benefits if you're fully or partially unemployed for reasons beyond your control. However, you may not be eligible if you left your last role voluntarily or your employer fired you. 

Your previous employer can protest your benefits application, depending on the reason for job separation. This happens automatically if you quit or were dismissed. In this situation, the IWD will invite you and your ex-employer to attend a fact-finding meeting to determine if you are responsible for being unemployed. It's essential to attend this meeting because failing to do so could result in the IWD refusing your claim.

Continued Eligibility Requirements

Iowa unemployment benefits claimants must search for work to stay eligible for payments. Therefore, you must carry out at least four job search activities each week, including a minimum of three job applications. You must maintain a log of your reemployment activities and submit it with your weekly claim. 

Benefits recipients must also register for work at IowaWORKS online or via your local center. Upload an updated resume and enable the "review by employer" option so that prospective employers can find your profile. 

You must be ready and able to work every day while claiming benefits, and you will lose eligibility if you refuse a suitable job offer. The IWD considers a job suitable if it pays a similar rate to your last job. You will be expected to accept a job offering an average weekly wage (AWW) equalling or exceeding your highest-paid quarter earnings divided by 13. However, you will need to take a job for less pay if you're unemployed for more than 5 weeks:

  • Weeks 6 through 12: 75% of AWW
  • Weeks 13 through 18: 70% of AWW
  • Week 18+: 65% of AWW

The IWD may reduce or suspend your payments if you're unavailable for work. For example, unavailability due to sickness, lack of transport or childcare and vacation can all affect your weekly benefit amount.

How Do You Apply for Iowa Unemployment Benefits?

It's essential to apply for Iowa unemployment benefits as soon as you lose your job because the IWD does not issue backdated payments. You can file a claim online through the IWD website or at your nearest IowaWORKS Center between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and between 6:00 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on weekends. 

You should also file a weekly claim online to receive your benefits payment. Missed or late weekly claims could affect how much you receive. Provide information about your completed reemployment activities and any income received in your weekly claim.

How Much Do You Get From Iowa Unemployment?

How much you get in unemployment benefits payments each week depends on how many dependents you have and how much pay you received in your highest-paid quarter. You can add a maximum of four dependents to your claim, including your spouse if they earn less than $120 per week. 

The IWD calculates your weekly benefit amount as follows:

  • No dependents: Highest-quarter earnings divided by 23, up to a maximum of $531
  • One dependent: Highest-quarter earnings divided by 22, up to a maximum of $551
  • Two dependents: Highest-quarter earnings divided by 21, up to a maximum of $571
  • Three dependents: Highest-quarter earnings divided by 20, up to a maximum of $601
  • Four dependents: Highest-quarter earnings divided by 19, up to a maximum of $651

The maximum benefits you can claim is whichever is the lesser of your weekly benefit amount multiplied by 26 or 1/3 of your base period earnings. However, your maximum claim amount will be higher if your last employer permanently stops trading. In this situation, your maximum claim limit is your weekly benefit amount multiplied by 39 or 1/2 of your base period earnings, whichever is lower. 

You can usually claim Iowa unemployment benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks, but some people can claim for up to 39 weeks. The state may extend the maximum claim length during times of relatively high unemployment. Any earnings or retirement income exceeding 25% of your weekly benefit amount will reduce your benefits entitlement, and you must report your income each week. 

What Happens If Unemployment Claims in Iowa Are Denied?

If the IWD declines your unemployment benefits application, you can appeal the decision. You can submit your appeal online or by mail to:

Iowa Workforce Development
Appeals Bureau 
1000 E Grand Avenue 
Des Moines, IA 50319-0209 

You should cite the mailing date and reference number printed on your decision document and include your full name, birthdate and Social Security number. Also, explain in detail your reasons for contesting and attach any evidence that supports your appeal.

You will then receive a Notice of Appeal, including a date and time for a formal hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). You should call 866-783-7021 at your scheduled hearing time and enter the pin on your Notice of Appeal to attend by phone.

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