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Iowa Unemployment Benefits

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Iowa unemployment insurance (UI) is commonly referred to as unemployment compensation (UC). This public program provides temporary financial assistance to local workers who recently became unemployment through no fault of their own. UI is funded through employers’ tax dollars, and the Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) is responsible for administering the program. Once enrollees begin to claim unemployment benefits, they can use funds to support themselves and while looking for jobs.

From the process of how to apply for unemployment online to specific eligibility for unemployment requirements, there are various steps that go into submitting a UC application. The sections below explain what details petitioners must include in their submission materials, as well as where they can apply. Furthermore, the subsequent sections outline how workers can prepare for UI interviews and what to do if they receive denials.

What is unemployment in Iowa?

Iowa unemployment benefits are available to in-state workers who recently lost their jobs through circumstances they could not control. At its maximum, employees may enroll in unemployment insurance for 26 weeks. In some cases, workers may maintain an unemployment claim that allows them to receive benefits for 39 weeks. However, the latter is only possible when a worker’s previous employers go out of business.

Petitioners must remember that, after they file for unemployment insurance benefits, they are required to serve a waiting week. During this time, beneficiaries will not be able to receive UI funds. Afterward, enrollees may begin to utilize their UC stipends. However, candidates must be mindful that this program is not intended to serve as a long-term solution for joblessness. In fact, certain requirements are in place to ensure that applicants are actively seeking out work opportunities during enrollment.

What are the requirements to get unemployment in Iowa?

The Iowa eligibility for unemployment requirements can be divided into two main categories: general and financial. These general requirements are as follows:

  • Unemployed status – Applicants must be fully or partially unemployed in order to receive UI benefits. However, petitioners who know that they will be unemployed soon cannot enroll until they have officially lost their jobs.
  • Reason for job loss – To be in accordance with state laws, UI enrollees may only be unemployed due to circumstances that were out of their control. As a result, candidates who voluntarily quit, were fired for misconduct or went on strike are ineligible to receive benefits.
  • Availability to work – Program beneficiaries must be ready and willing to accept suitable employment opportunities. This means that applicants who are unable to work due to scheduling conflicts or transportation issues are not eligible to enroll.

Regarding the financial aspect of unemployment insurance eligibility, claimants must have earned a certain amount of money during their base periods. Base periods refer to the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters that occurred before enrollment. In order to meet this financial requirement, petitioners in their base periods must have:

  • Total wages that equal 1.25 times the wages they earned in their highest base period quarters.
  • Highest quarter wages that are at least 3.5 percent of the Iowa average annual wage for work insured by the UI program.
  • Total wages in a calendar quarter that is not the highest-earning quarter must total at least 1.75 percent of the IA average annual wage.

How can I sign up for unemployment in Iowa?

Filing an Iowa online application for unemployment is the only way for petitioners to submit their materials. As a result, IA workers only need to know how to apply for unemployment online. Petitioners who do not have access to the internet must visit a local UI office and apply on-site. Alternatively, candidates can file an application using a computer at a public library. Regardless, claimants who are going to file for an unemployment claim must bring:

  • Personal information  Candidates must submit their Social Security Numbers, home and mailing addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses.
  • Financial information – Petitioners must record information from their pay stubs or W-2 forms.
  • Employment history Applicants are required to list their employment history for the past 18 months. Claimants must include employers’ contact information, the dates they worked at these establishments and the reasons why they are no longer employed there.

Furthermore, applicants who are interested in claiming benefits for unemployment may need to submit additional information. This depends on their jobs and immigration statuses. For example, applicants who belong in the following categories must bring their corresponding documents:

  • Military personnel must submit a DD-214 Member Copy 4 Form.
  • Federal government employees who worked as civilian employees need to turn in a Standard Form 8 or Standard Form 50.
  • Non-citizens must bring their employment authorization numbers and provide the expiration date for these documents.

How do I prepare for the unemployment insurance interview in Iowa?

Applicants may need to prepare for the unemployment insurance interview in Iowa if the Workforce Development department identifies any issues regarding their claims. Specifically, the IWD may require an unemployment phone interview with an applicant or employer if it needs to clarify details. These conversations are necessary when petitioners must resolve any uncertainty regarding why applicants left their previous jobs. Similarly, interviews may be required if the department is unsure whether petitioners are fully ready to accept new work opportunities.

The questions asked during unemployment interview in IA are specific to each case. Thus, depending on the nature of the issue at hand, these conversations vary in length. However, longer interviews are often only necessary when the IWD has questions regarding why the applicants are no longer employed. In these situations, the department may require an unemployment interview with employer to gain additional insight regarding the situation. In any case, it is important that neither party concerns itself with figuring out how to pass the unemployment insurance interview. These conversations are not evaluated on a pass/fail scale. Instead, they are part of a holistic process designed to help the Iowa Workforce Development to judge a candidate’s eligibility.

How do I claim unemployment benefits in Iowa?

Petitioners may begin to claim unemployment benefits in Iowa after receiving a notice containing the decision made by the IWD. However, maintaining an active unemployment benefits claim requires applicants to meet requirements throughout their enrollment. For example, beneficiaries who are interested in claiming benefits for unemployment must be sure to file claims each week. Enrollees must submit their information online. To accomplish this portion of the certification process, beneficiaries must have the following information on hand:

  • Social Security Number
  • Total gross wages earned during the week
  • Gross amount of severance, holiday or vacation pay earned during each week

In order to claim UI benefits, recipients must also be sure to meet the state’s weekly work search requirements. Enrollees must make at least two job contacts during each week they are enrolled in UC. Candidates may contact employers by:

  • Reaching out in-person.
  • Emailing inquiries.
  • Mailing written applications.
  • Faxing resumes or cover letters.

In general, the IWD does not consider calling employers as a method for applicants to satisfy this requirement. Furthermore, in order to maintain a UC benefits claim, candidates must remember that they can apply for the same job with the same employer once every six weeks.

What do I do if I am denied unemployment benefits in Iowa?

Petitioners who were denied unemployment in Iowa have the right appeal to an administrative law judge (ALJ). Similarly, employers who disagree with the department’s determinations may also submit appeals for the ALJ to reconsider the state’s decision. In either case, parties must submit their appeals within 10 days from when the department’s decision was dated. Individuals may submit their appeals online or by mailing a form to the Iowa Workforce Development. These first-level denied unemployment benefits hearings are conducted over the phone unless either party requests an in-person hearing. In-person hearings are conducted at local UI office. In total, there are 15 of those offices in Iowa. In order to file an unemployment denial appeal, claimants must include the following information in their materials:

  • Case-specific information – Petitioners must include the date of the UI decision they are appealing and the case’s reference number.
  • Claimant information – An applicant must submit his or her name, address and Social Security Number (SSN).
  • Employer information – Claimants are required to include their employers’ names, addresses and account numbers.
  • Reasons – Candidates need to provide reasons that explain why they wish to appeal the department’s decision.

Once an appeal is received concerning an unemployment benefits denied enrollment, the state’s Appeals Bureau will send out a notice that includes the time and date for the hearing. The notice will also include instructions for relevant parties to register their phone numbers before the trial. During this process, either party has the right to submit additional evidence for the ALJ to evaluate. Furthermore, employers and claimants may also bring witnesses to provide testimony. In a UI denial appeal, both parties also have the right to legal counsel, but this is not required.

14 days after a denied UI hearing, the ALJ will mail his or her decision. If either party disagrees with this decision, they have 15 days to appeal the ALJ’s decision to the Employment Appeal Board (AEB).

How can I apply for a federal unemployment extension in Iowa?

Congress can authorize an unemployment benefits extension in Iowa during times when more local workers than usual become unemployed. In IA, this is referred to as Extended Benefits (EB). However, this federal unemployment extension is only available in extreme situations. Furthermore, Congress has the power to decide whether they will offer this program on a state-by-state basis or nationally. When offered, this unemployment extension program allows enrollees to receive UC funds beyond the state’s 26-week limit. In order to participate, recipients who have already exhausted their benefits must contact the Iowa Workforce Development department.

How do I contact the Iowa unemployment office?

Individuals with specific questions can direct their inquiries to the Iowa unemployment office. These questions may pertain to topics such as the application process or program eligibility. Moreover, the UI office maintains a phone number for each outpost across the state. In addition, claimants and enrollees may visit the unemployment office in person. The Des Moines UC office is located at:

1000 E Grand Avenue

Des Moines, Iowa 50309


When should I apply for unemployment benefits in Iowa?

You should file for unemployment benefits as soon as you lose your job or are forced to work reduced hours. Keep in mind that if you are approved to receive unemployment benefits, you will begin to receive your benefits on the Sunday of the week you apply. Your benefits DO NOT begin on the day you lost your job or began working reduced hours.

What do I need to do after I file my claim?

The most important thing you can do once you have filed your unemployment claim is to file your weekly claim. This means making and logging your required work search contacts for each week as well as other tasks.

How do I file my weekly claim in Iowa?

You can file your weekly claims online by visiting

What happens if I have questions or problems while filing a claim in Iowa?

In the state of Iowa, you can contact the Unemployment Insurance customer support number at 1-866-239-0843 between 8am and 4:30pm, Monday through Friday.

Iowa Unemployment Office Locations