Montana Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

In this article...
  • Montana unemployment benefits can provide financial support if you lose your job. Find out how to get unemployment benefits in Montana and who's eligible.

The Unemployment Insurance Division (UID) of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry is responsible for distributing unemployment benefits. If you find yourself out of work and meet the state's eligibility criteria, Montana unemployment benefits can help you make ends meet. 

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Montana?

The UID requires claimants to meet various initial and ongoing eligibility criteria to qualify for unemployment benefits in Montana. Understanding the eligibility requirements can help you avoid payment delays or having your claim denied. 

Base Period Earnings

You might be monetarily eligible for unemployment benefits in Montana if you earned sufficient wages during a base period. Usually, the base period encompasses the first four of the last five finished calendar quarters before you register for benefits. 

However, Montana also permits applicants to use an alternative base period if they didn't meet the monetary eligibility requirements using the usual base period. The alternative base period is the four most recently completed calendar quarters. 

The UID determines your monetary eligibility against Montana's Average Annual Wages (AAW). It also compares your High Quarter Wages (HQW) to your total earnings over the base period. You'll qualify for benefits if you satisfy one of the following criteria:

  • Your total base period earnings equal or exceed 1.5 times your HQW, and you earned at least 7% of the AAW overall
  • Your total base period earnings equal or exceed half of the AAW

Reasons for Job Separation

The UID investigates the reason you left your job to decide if you can claim unemployment benefits. You may be entitled to benefits if your employer laid you off because there wasn't enough work available. You're less likely to be eligible if you were dismissed or suspended due to misconduct or take an authorized leave of absence. Dismissal due to gross misconduct can prevent you from claiming benefits for 52 weeks.

If you quit your job, whether you can claim benefits depends on why you chose to leave. You can't generally claim benefits after quitting your job for non-compelling personal reasons. However, you may be eligible if you quit for job-related reasons, such as harassment or discrimination. People who quit their jobs to protect themselves or their children from domestic or sexual abuse are often entitled to benefits. 

Ability and Availability to Work

You can only claim unemployment benefits in Montana if you're able and available to work for at least 40 hours per week. Therefore, you must be physically and mentally well enough to undertake paid work and make the necessary practical arrangements to accept a job offer. 

Recipients don't receive benefits for days they can't work. You should let the UID know via your weekly claim if you are unavailable for work due to sickness, vacation, lack of transportation or any other reason. 

Work Search Requirement

You must actively seek an employed position while claiming Montana unemployment benefits, and seeking self-employed work doesn't count. People claiming partial benefits because they have a part-time job must seek additional employment to increase their hours to at least 40 hours per week.

Failing to seek work could cause your benefits payments to stop. All claimants must register for re-employment at MontanaWorks or their nearest Job Service Montana center. 

You must apply to at least one actively hiring employer per week and provide proof of the application. Your local Job Service Montana office may invite you to engage with re-employment services. Non-attendance could result in loss of benefits. 

If you're offered a suitable position, you must accept it. The UID expects applicants to provide a compelling reason if they refuse a job. Generally, you can refuse a job if it doesn't offer a comparable salary to your previous position. However, you must be available to work for whatever hours are standard in your industry.

Applicants receiving benefits for 13 weeks or more must accept a job paying 75% of their previous salary in a similar role. However, the UID does not expect candidates to take positions paying below the state or federal minimum wage, whichever is higher.

Work Search Exemption

The UID may exempt you from the job search requirement if you receive a job offer of at least 30 hours per week with a confirmed start date. You may also receive an exemption if you were temporarily laid-off and you're due to return to work on a scheduled date. However, you must remain able and available to work throughout your claim period. 

Union members in good standing with their union halls don't usually need to search for work. However, you must tell your union hall that you're unemployed and seeking employment, and the UID will confirm your membership with the hall.

How Do You Apply for Montana Unemployment Benefits?

You can apply for Montana unemployment benefits online at If you need support completing your application, you can call the UI claims processing department at (406) 444-2545 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays.

You must complete a weekly claim through your MontanaWorks account to receive your benefits payments. Report information about your work search activities and any earnings received when you file your claim. Claimants can choose whether to file and receive payments weekly or biweekly. However, the UID recommends requesting weekly payments because it reduces the chances of making a mistake on your claim. 

How Much Do You Get From Montana Unemployment?

The UID bases your weekly benefit amount (WBA) on how much you earned during your base period. The minimum WBA is $163, and the most you can receive is $552. Most claimants can receive benefits for a maximum of 28 weeks per benefit year. 

Any payments received during a benefit week can affect your benefits. Income, such as wages, sick pay or bonus payments, can reduce your WBA. You should report any income on your weekly benefits claim. 

You'll need to pay tax on any unemployment benefits received. However, you can ask the UID to withhold tax from your benefits to help you manage your tax liability.

What Happens if Montana Unemployment Benefits Are Denied?

If you're denied benefits, or you disagree with the WBA awarded on your Notice of Determination, you have the right to appeal. You can appeal the decision online through your MontanaWorks account or the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Administrative Hearings. Alternatively, you can find instructions for appealing by mail or fax on your Notice of Determination letter. 

You will then receive a Notice of Hearing through the mail with the scheduled date and time of your telephone hearing. Continue submitting weekly claims, so you can request missed payments if the UID upholds your appeal.

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