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Small Business Owners Make Sense of Unemployment Amid COVID-19

Making Sense of Unemployment Benefits

March 26, 2020

Help! Until COVID-19, I’ve never had an employee file for unemployment benefits. I received a letter in the mail today, what do I do now?

If you venture out to the Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) website, there are a lot of resources available. For many of you, even finding 10 minutes to do the research seems like a daunting task.

I’ve done the digging for you, and I’m sharing what I feel are the top areas to keep in mind as you participate in this process along with a few links for further details.

Top Five Tips You Should Know + How to Respond Accurately in Less Time

1. Employees Can File WITHOUT Exhausting Company Benefits

In accordance with the CARES Act, you no longer have to exhaust company benefits before pursuing Unemployment amid COVID-19.

Why does this matter? Typically the IWD required employees to exhaust PTO, Vacation or Sick Leave before filing for Unemployment. It means employees are allowed to keep this time and still file for Unemployment. Keep in mind the unemployment benefit itself may only be half of what they are currently earning. Plus, if you offer your employees health insurance, they will need to pay out of pocket to continue their coverage but are allowed to keep PTO, Vacation or Sick Leave.

2. Employees Need to Specify It’s COVID-19 Related

If your employees are not able to work, they can easily file online for unemployment benefits. They must check the box “You are filing due to a temporary layoff as a result of COVID-19”. Doing so allows the following special exceptions to go into place:

  • Relief of any charges
    • All claims filed as a result of COVID-19 will have benefit charges removed from the claim.
    • If you do receive charges for a COVID-19 unemployment claim, contact the IWD.
  • The employee’s requirement to search for work is waived
  • A Fact-finding is waived allowing for quicker processing

If your employee who filed does not believe they checked this box when completing their unemployment application, please have them call IWD or email to clarify this change.

Why does this matter? Not doing so will keep the unemployment claim in the normal process and will not be eligible for the exceptions listed above until it’s been corrected.

3. How to Respond to a Filed Claim

The IWD does not have a sample form to show what questions to answer when responding to an unemployment claim. The form itself is fluid and changes based on how you answer each question. If you are only responding to a COVID-19 Unemployment claim you should respond to three questions.

  1. Check the box, “I am not protesting the claim.”
  2. Add the note “ they are filing as a result of COVID-19.”
  3. Fill out the “certified correct by” box.
  4. If any other information on the form is filled out, it will most likely cause a fact-finding to be held.
  5. Why does this matter? Adding more information or checking the wrong box may trigger follow-up questions from the IWD delaying benefits to your employee. Keep in mind that unemployment claims are in process that are not COVID-19 related.

    4. Online Response Is Best

    Even though you received a paper unemployment claim, you can reply online through your employer account for quicker processing. If you don’t have an employer account, you can set up your account at myiowaui.org/UITIPTaxWeb/uilogin.do.

    To receive online unemployment claims via SIDES instead of paper ones in the mail, sign up here: iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/sides-information-employers

    Why does this matter? Having online access allows you to see all claims in process and speeds up the overall communication process.

    5. What to Do If Employee Left Months Ago

    When responding to the unemployment claim you would need to note when the employee left your company. For example if they left your company six months ago, you would not want to state you are not contesting. You would want to select “I appeal this claim noting the last day the employee worked for you.”

    Why does this matter? When individuals file for Unemployment, the notice can go back further than a current employer.

    The IWD is working tirelessly to help you as small business owners and your employees impacted by COVID-19 to make this process go smoothly. I include links to their additional resources below.

    Additional Resources/Tips


    This 20-minute video created by the Iowa Workforce Development explaining what Unemployment insurance is and expands on the points I listed above specifically to COVID-19. The last nine minutes are a Q&A section.

    IWD Contact Info


    My recommendation is to send an email for the quickest response to either of the following email addresses: uicalimshelp@iwd.iowa.gov or iwdcovid@iwd.iow.gov (the same people respond but this email address is specific to COVID-19 and not general questions).



    Stay Up to Date

    Find updates at iowaworkforcedevelopment.gove/COVID-19.

    Danielle Rusch is the owner of Dynamic Talent Consultants. She partners with Executives and HR Leaders to increase productivity and team cohesiveness. She’s spent over 18 years working in Human Resources in a variety of industries.

    If you are a small business owner with HR questions, feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn or schedule time with her for 1:1 leadership support during COVID-19.

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    You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here.

    Find these tips useful? Find more business tools and information by visiting the Business Resources page.

    Danielle Rusch

    Danielle Rusch leads the Dynamic Talent Consultants team as senior HR consultant. She is passionate about guiding leaders to optimize working relationships and hiring for job fit. Danielle worked in human resources for over 17 years in a variety of industries.