Minnesota Unemployment Benefits, Eligibility, Services, Filing & More

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Here's what an individual living in Minnesota needs to know about applying for unemployment benefits. They should start by completing the state’s application process either online or by phone. They will need their Social Security number, driver’s license number and work history. After they apply, Minnesota Unemployment Insurance (UI) will mail them a Determination of Benefit Account that provides the claimant's weekly benefit amount and the total amount of benefits available.

Minnesota Unemployment Insurance

Minnesota's UI program provides a temporary partial wage replacement to workers in the state who become unemployed or who had their hours reduced through no fault of their own. A claimant must have enough wages in their base period to establish a benefit account. A worker who was terminated from a position for misconduct is not eligible for UI benefits. Examples of misconduct include continuous, unexcused absences or lateness, breaking company rules and intentionally neglecting duties.

Typically, a claimant who quit a job is not eligible for benefits, but there are many exceptions to this rule. An individual may be eligible if they quit to accept better employment, there was reason that would compel an average reasonable worker to quit, they had a serious illness or injury that required them to quit or they had to take care of a family member with this concern. A claimant is also eligible if they lost their childcare and made reasonable efforts to find new childcare.

Who Administers the Program?

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) manages UI for all Minnesotans. DEED provides free assistance to applicants and employers. Minnesota UI offers automated and live customer service by phone at 651-296-3644 for the Twin Cities area and 877-898-9090 for Greater Minnesota.

Steps After Making an Unemployment Claim

A claimant should read UI’s information handbook. They should also look for letters in the mail about their benefit amount and how to request a benefit payment. They should request a benefit payment every week, even if UI is still determining their eligibility. The individual should also respond to all requests for information in a complete, honest and timely manner.

Total Amount of Unemployment Benefits

A claimant wondering how much they will receive should know their award amount is dependent on their average weekly wage. The award amount is about half their average weekly wage, up to a state maximum of $762. Recent federal legislation added a $300 per week supplemental payment to anyone receiving unemployment benefits from any program. The $300 supplemental payment is set to expire on March 14, 2021.

Certain self-employed people and independent contractors collecting regular unemployment benefits may be eligible for a $100 per week supplemental payment under the new Mixed Earnings Unemployment Compensation Program. Such individuals must provide proof of a minimum level of net income from self-employment.

2020 Federal Law Extends Benefits

Federal government legislation passed in December 2020 extends the relief provided by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The December 2020 legislation extends state unemployment benefits for 11 extra weeks. The CARES Act provides the $300 supplemental payment for all claimants receiving unemployment benefits and the $100 supplemental payment for certain self-employed people and independent contractors.

The two programs that extend state unemployment benefits are the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. The PEUC program is a federal extension program for people who exhausted their regular unemployment benefits. The PUA program provides weekly benefit payments for people who are not eligible for regular or extended unemployment benefits in Minnesota or another state.

Unemployment Caused By COVID-19

Minnesota UI sorts people whose employment has been affected by COVID-19 into two groups, self-employed people and independent contractors in the first group and workers in the second. Self-employed people and independent contractors are categorized as those who are typically ineligible for regular or extended UI benefits in Minnesota or another state. Workers are eligible for UI if they lost their jobs or had their hours significantly reduced because of COVID-19.

Timing and UI Benefits

The application process for UI requires a claimant to apply for benefits in the same week they experience a layoff or see their hours greatly reduced. The day they apply will not affect the amount of benefits they receive. Ordinarily, there is a waiting period the week after an individual applies, during which they are not paid unemployment benefits, but Governor Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-05 waives the waiting week so people can have access to unemployment benefits as quickly as possible.

General Eligibility Requirements

In order to demonstrate eligibility for benefits, an individual must have sufficient earnings in their base period, a recent 52-week period of time. The person must be legally authorized to work in the U.S. and be unemployed or working substantially reduced hours through no fault of their own. The claimant must be actively seeking suitable employment each week. Further, they must be able and willing to begin suitable work without delay when offered.

A claimant who is taking classes must be willing to rearrange or quit classes if needed to accept work. This is true regardless of whether the person is searching for work or has a work release agreement. They must not be in jail or on electronic home monitoring.

Eligibility Requirements for Workers

A worker may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they temporarily or permanently lost their job or had their hours significantly reduced because of COVID-19. The reason for the loss or reduction can be that the workplace saw less business because of the pandemic. A worker may also be eligible for unemployment benefits if a healthcare professional or health authority recommended or ordered them to avoid contact with others due to COVID-19.

Further, the worker may be eligible if they were ordered not to come to their workplace because of a COVID-19 outbreak or were notified by their child’s school district, daycare or childcare provider that classes were canceled or their usual childcare was unavailable. The worker must have made a reasonable effort to find childcare or requested time off or another accommodation from their employer, and no reasonable accommodation was available.

Eligibility for Self-Employed People

A self-employed person may be eligible for benefits for some weeks but not for others. In order to remain eligible, they must have worked less than 32 hours in any combination of employment, including employment, self-employment or volunteer work. They must earn less than their weekly benefit amount. They are required to look for a job as an employee by making efforts to find job openings and contacting potential employers; it is not sufficient to simply seek clients for their business.

The self-employed person must be willing to rearrange or quit their self-employment activity if that interferes with accepting employment under the conditions that are normal for their usual occupation. Even if they meet all the requirements for a week, the system will deduct half of their earnings from their benefit payment.

A self-employed person can deduct expenses when calculating their net earnings, but only those expenses unique to their self-employment, not expenses the average homeowner or employee in similar work would incur. For example, they can deduct business postage and certain mileage at the IRS rate, but not personal vehicle expenses or personal utility, phone or internet bills. IRS rules do not apply because some expenses that are tax deductible are not allowed as deductions for UI’s purposes.

Regular Unemployment for Some Self-Employed People

A person who is self-employed and also worked for someone else in their base period may qualify for regular unemployment rather than for PUA benefits if they worked for a Minnesota employer in the past 18 months. Minnesota UI recommends applying to determine eligibility. A self-employed person or independent contractor who is still working but has seen a substantial drop in their income due to COVID-19 may be eligible for PUA benefits.

Help with a Job Search

DEED is continuing to offer Minnesotans services for finding jobs through the pandemic. Their website offers links to job listings, networking events, career fairs and targeted assistance for certain groups of workers, such as at-risk youth and displaced homeworkers. The agency also features a webpage called Good Jobs Now that highlights what types of jobs are available currently.

Factors Deciding Ineligibility for the Unemployment Insurance Program

A claimant who works 32 or more hours in a week will not be considered unemployed for that week. A worker who leaves employment because they are participating in a strike or are a member of a striking union at their place of employment are also ineligible for benefit payments.

There are exceptions to the strike rule: A worker will be eligible for benefits if they are unemployed because of a strike due to an employer’s willful failure to observe the safety and health section of a union contract or if they were discharged before the start of the strike or labor dispute. They will also be eligible if they are unemployed because of a lockout or if they experience a layoff due to a strike against the employer.

Reemployment and Returning to Work

An employee who is returning to full-time work or who wants to stop requesting benefit payments is only required to make their final request. They should then stop requesting payments and do not need to notify Minnesota UI. If they start work at the new job in the middle of the week, they should report the hours worked and their earnings for the week. They may be eligible for a partial benefit payment.

A claimant should keep their password and unemployment debit card in a safe place in case they again become eligible to request benefits. They should keep the address on their UI account current for at least four years after their last request. If they become unemployed again, they should log in to their UI account or call UI’s automated phone system. The system will ask the person to either reactivate their account or apply for a new account.

Filing an Appeal for Unemployment Insurance Benefits

A person who has been denied unemployment benefits is entitled to an opportunity for a fair and impartial hearing. They must file an appeal electronically, by mail or fax within the time frame specified on the denial notice. Minnesota UI considers an appeal as filed online or by fax on the day it receives the appeal.

Hearings are currently being conducted by phone unless circumstances make this impractical. If a claimant does not like the result of the hearing, they must file a Request for Reconsideration within 20 calendar days of the mail date of the decision. Any decision issued by an unemployment law judge as the result of a hearing may be reviewed by the same judge if that request is filed within the requisite time period.

A person who disagrees with the result of the reconsideration may take the matter to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. If they remain unemployed as the matter proceeds, they should continue to make requests for benefit payments every week while waiting for a final decision.