If a person is an Alaska resident and has lost their job, Alaska’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development may be able to provide them with financial assistance in the form of unemployment insurance benefits. A person can file for unemployment insurance benefits as soon as the person loses their job or has their hours cut to less than full-time.
It is advised that a person apply as soon as possible after becoming unemployed, because Alaska does not pay benefits retroactively for any weeks during which a person was unemployed but did not apply for benefits.
How Do I Qualify for Unemployment in Alaska?
To qualify for unemployment benefits in Alaska, a person first must have earned money from covered employment in Alaska in the 12 months preceding their application. Covered employment is any employment with an employer who pays taxes under Alaska’s unemployment insurance law.
Also, during 2 of the quarters in their base period, a person needs to have earned a minimum amount in wages as specified in the state’s guidelines. To remain eligible for unemployment, a person must be ready and able to work. A person must report every week and register for work when it becomes available.
A six-week disqualification may apply to a person’s unemployment period if they quit their job voluntarily or were fired for misconduct from their last job. This disqualification also denies their eligibility for the Extended Benefit program, explained below. Also, a total of three weeks worth of unemployment is deducted from the maximum amount of benefits a person can collect.
These conditions apply to every one of the following kinds of unemployment insurance:
- Interstate Claim for Benefits: If a person lives in another state but has worked in Alaska, they may qualify to file a claim for unemployment in Alaska; because the claim is based on earnings in Alaska;
- Combined Wage Claim for Benefits: If a person worked in more than one state at some point in the last two years, they may qualify for this type of unemployment. Eligibility depends on combining all the wage credits earned in each state;
- Extended Benefits: This is a federal program that pays additional unemployment insurance benefits when unemployment is high, so it is not available at all times;
- Compensation for Federal Civilian Employees: If a person is separated from civilian employment with the federal government, they may qualify for unemployment insurance. The person would have to provide an SF-8 form from their federal government employer. The federal agency for which the person worked would be asked to verify wages and separation information;
- Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Military Personnel: If a person served in active military duty within the preceding 18 months, they may be eligible. The person would need to show their discharge papers;
- Disaster Unemployment Assistance: If a person is unemployed because of a disaster, they might qualify for as much as 26 weeks of special unemployment assistance. Once the federal government has declared a major disaster and offers individual assistance, the state and federal personnel issue information to affected people in the designated areas.
A person can list dependents on their application for unemployment insurance benefits. The children can be the person’s natural children, stepchildren, adopted children, or legal ward.
Listing dependents may be to a person’s advantage because the person can receive an extra $24 per child for up to 3 children every week. The person’s dependents have to be under 18, live with the person and have received over 50% of their support from the person in order to qualify for the additional payment.
Generally, the amount of benefits for which a person is eligible depends on the amount they earned in wages in the first four of the last five calendar quarters.
How Do I Apply for Unemployment?
In Alaska, a person can apply for unemployment benefits online or by phone via the state’s automated, telephone filing system which is known as “VICTOR.” To apply, a person needs their social security number or, if they are not a citizen, their alien registration number and work permit type.
They will be required to provide the name, address, and phone number of their last employer, the time they worked at their last job, and the amount of their pay. Also, a person will need to include any other income they received during their last week on the job such as severance or bonus pay.
If a person has applied for unemployment before and allowed their claim to lapse, they may be able to obtain unemployment benefits by simply reopening their old claim. However, they only have the option to restart a pre-existing claim if they stopped their biweekly claims, moved out of Alaska or to another part of the state, or if they moved around looking for work for more than 4 weeks. If they applied online, they can use their same log-in information to reopen their case or start a new unemployment claim.
How Long Does Unemployment Last?
A person’s unemployment pay lasts from 16 to 26 weeks. The benefit amount that a person receives varies depending on how much they earned in the past. A person receives at least $56 per week and at most $370 per week although these amounts may vary over time.
Once a person starts receiving unemployment benefits, it is their responsibility to register for work if they are told to do so by the state workforce agency. They have to look for a suitable full-time job. Also, they must report every week about any work contacts they have made in their search for employment. Finally, they are required to report all activity and any earnings they have every single week.
What Can I Do If I Run Out of Unemployment?
A program called “Extended Benefits,” provides unemployment benefits beyond 26 weeks. However, extended benefits are not always available. The “Extended Benefits” program is only available during periods when unemployment is unusually high in Alaska. Historically, these benefits have been available to Alaska residents from January or February to June or July when a high rate of unemployment justifies the program. So, a person cannot count on them at all times.
In order to qualify for Extended Benefits, a person must not be eligible for a new unemployment claim anywhere. In addition, the person’s unemployment benefits must end either during or after the week that the Extended Benefit become available. A person needs to meet certain work registration requirements.
For example, a person has to post their resume on the Alaska Labor Exchange System. There are also Reemployment Services that can help a person return to work through training and support.
What Should I Do If My Claim Is Denied?
If a person’s claim for unemployment benefits have been denied or limited in some way, they can appeal the decision. They have 30 days to appeal to the Appeal Tribunal where they will have a hearing with a hearing officer. At the hearing, a person can present evidence, including the testimony of witnesses.
If their claim is still denied, then a person can appeal that decision with the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development. Finally, if a person still does not have a favorable decision, then they can appeal the decision in civil court.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Unemployment?
It can be helpful to consult with employee rights lawyer in Alaska for help with your unemployment claim.
A lawyer can be especially helpful if your claim is denied and you have to appeal the decision. The appeal process can be difficult and may involve the formalities of going to a civil court.