Filing a New Claim
When a worker files a new claim, the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) must consider all the earnings the worker received during the base period of the claim. The base period is usually the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters. However, if a worker lacks enough wages in that period to qualify for a claim, then the Agency must consider an alternate base period - the last four completed calendar quarters.
To set up a claim, the UIA must find the following in the base period: wages in the "high quarter" (quarter with the highest wages) of at least the state minimum hourly wage times 388.06; and wages in the entire based period of at least 1.5 times the wages in the high quarter.
The high quarter wage requirement is:
- $1,998 for benefit years beginning prior to 4/1/2007
- $2,697 for benefit years beginning 4/1/2007 through 1/5/2008
- $2,774 bor benefit years beginning 1/6/2008 through 1/3/2009
- $2,871 for benefit years beginning on or after 1/4/2009
In the example above, the worker's claim was filed in Quarter 6 and the benefit year began prior to 4/1/2007. The wages considered by the UIA in determining the claimant's base period earnings are the wages from Quarters 1 through 4. The 5th Quarter is called the "lag quarter." Wage data from the lag quarter is being processed by the UIA so it is not immediately available.
The claim in this case meets the above criteria for setting up a claim. The wages in the high quarter are at least $1,998 and total base period wages are at least 1.5 times the high quarter wages.
The UIA would have considered the alternate earnings qualifier (AEQ), applied to the same base period, if the base period wages had failed to meet any of the criteria. To qualify using the AEQ, the claimant must have earnings in at least two calendar quarters in the base period, and have total earnings in the base period of at least 20 times the state average weekly wage.
If the claimant still does not quality for benefits, the UIA will apply the same criteria to the alternate base period. That is, the four most recently completed calendar quarters; there is no lag quarter.
So there are four ways a claimant can qualify for benefits under the wage record system.
Figuring the Weekly Benefit Rate
To figure an eligible claimant's weekly benefit rate, the UIA will find the calendar quarter in the worker's base period with the highest wages. The UIA then multiplies the high quarter wages by 4.1% (.041) to determine the claimant's weekly benefit amount. For each dependant up to five, $6 will be added. The resulting benefit amount is rounded down to the nearest whole number. The maximum weekly benefit amount is $362.
Figuring Duration of Benefits
To find the number of weeks benefits could be paid on a claim, the UIA takes 43% (.43) of a claimant's base period wages, then divides that product by the claimant's weekly benefit amount. For a claimant with base period wages of $3,100 and a weekly benefit amount of $82, the calculation works this way:
- Take 43% of the claimant's base period wages - $3,100 X .43 = $1,333
- Divide the product of the above calculation by the claimant's weekly benefit amount - $1,333 ÷ $82 = 16.26
The result, 16.26, is rounded down to the nearest half-number. The claimant in this example could receive benefits for 16 weeks. The minimum number of weeks of benefits payable is 14; the maximum, 20.
How Employers are Charged for Benefits
Employer liability - that is, the benefit charges in the employer's UIA account and used to calculate the employer's unemployment tax rate - comes into play when a worker receives jobless benefits. Here's how it works under wage record:
The entire benefit amount for each of the first two weeks of a claim is charged to the claimant's most recent employer at the time the claim was filed. That employer, called the last employer, may or may not also be the base period employer. However, if a claimant did not earn, with the last employer, an amount at least equal to the amount needed to complete a rework requalification (explained below), then the last employer's account will not be charged the entire two weeks of benefit payments. Instead, each week of benefits, starting with the first week, will be charged, proportionally, to all base period employers.
Regardless of whether the last employer is charged the entire amount of the first two weeks, beginning with week three of benefits the base period employers are charged their proportional share of the claimant's weekly benefit payments.
What is a requalification for rework? If a worker is disqualified for quitting a job, the worker can requalify for benefits by returning to work in covered (non-excluded) employment (rework) and earning 12 times the worker's weekly benefit amount. If a worker is disqualified for being fired for misconduct, the worker can requalify for benefits by returning to work in covered (non-excluded) employment (rework) and earning 17 times the worker's weekly benefit amount.
However, any unemployment benefits the worker receives based on base period earnings, paid by the employer from which the worker was disqualified, will not be charged to the employer's account. An employer will be charged unless the UIA is advised that a claimant should be disqualified