Idaho Unemployment Benefits, Amount, Services, Filing & FAQs

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Idahoans who have experienced a work layoff or suffered a significant reduction in hours can file for unemployment insurance (UI). When their UI benefits are exhausted, they will qualify for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and when these weeks run out, they will qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). A person who was self-employed or an independent contractor prior to the pandemic is eligible for benefits through PUA. During the pandemic, the waiting week for unemployment benefits has been waived.

Weekly Benefit Amount

In the state of Idaho, the minimum weekly benefit amount (WBA) for UI and PEUC is $72 per week, and the maximum is $463. The minimum WBA for PUA is $168 per week, and the maximum is $463. For benefit weeks between December 26, 2020, and the week ending September 4, 2021, an individual can expect between $300 and $400 in extra benefit payments.

An individual with multiple income streams, such as a job with wages and also self-employment work, may be eligible for an additional $100 per week through a program called Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC). The Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL) will determine if the claimant is eligible for this additional money.

Work Search Requirement

The work search requirement will be reinstated on April 25, 2021, for the first time since the pandemic began. The work search requirement had been waived for weeks prior to April 25. A claimant must seek work until they return to work for wages, not to self-employment, with an employer within 16 weeks. Job search requirements apply to regular unemployment insurance benefits claimants; Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act claimants, such as people on PEUC and PUA; self-employed individuals; and independent contractors.

Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Idaho offers up to 52 weeks of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. A claimant may be paid at partial entitlement if they are working part time or full entitlement if they are not working at all. When a claimant is not working at all, the number of weeks of full entitlement they can receive will vary between 10 weeks minimum and 20 weeks maximum. If the individual is working part time, their UI benefits may last the entire 52 weeks.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment

PEUC is a federal government program under the CARES Act that extends the number of weeks for which a claimant can receive UI benefits. PEUC adds weeks after the UI claim has been exhausted up until September 4, 2021. A claimant is eligible to claim 53 weeks of PEUC due to the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act.

If a claimant is eligible for a regular UI claim, they must use the regular unemployment claim instead of going to, or staying on, a PEUC claim. This is true even if their WBA is lower on the new claim or the new claim is in a different state.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is for unemployed workers who no longer qualify for UI or PEUC, or who are only eligible for PUA. Self-employed people and independent contractors are eligible for PUA. A claimant is eligible for a maximum of 79 weeks of PUA. An individual who was self-employed or an independent contractor will need to submit proof of income for 2019 or 2020, depending on the year in which they filed for unemployment insurance for the first time.

The claimant can establish their wage history with tax returns, business receipts, a state or federal identification number or a business license.

Eligibility Requirements During the Pandemic

An individual is eligible for UI for the usual reasons, as well as those related to the COVID-19 pandemic. An individual is eligible for PEUC or PUA if they are unemployed, unable or unavailable to work due to a COVID-19-related reason. Such reasons include: caring for a family or household member diagnosed with COVID-19; being the primary caregiver of a child or household member unable to attend school or another facility closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency; and seeing a place of employment closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. If the place of employment has since reopened, and the claimant is being offered work but chooses not to return to work, they will not qualify for unemployment benefits.

An individual who was self-employed or an independent contractor before the pandemic is eligible for unemployment benefits if they experienced a significant reduction of customary or usual services because of the COVID-19 public emergency. They are eligible if they provide services to an educational institution or service agency and are unemployed or partially employed because of volatility in the work schedule directly caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency. The volatility may involve changes in schedules and partial closures of a school or service agency.

An individual is also eligible for benefits if they refused work but their employer was not in compliance with local, state or national health and safety standards directly related to COVID-19, such as facial mask-wearing standards. An individual is not eligible for unemployment benefits if they have the ability to telework with pay and would still be working substantially the same number of hours and receiving the same pay, but choose not to telework. An individual is not eligible for unemployment benefits if they are receiving paid sick leave or other paid leave benefits and these benefits would exceed their weekly amount of PUA.

Fraud and Refusal to Return

A worker who is receiving unemployment benefits is required to accept suitable work. Claimants should be aware that if an employer asks them to return to work and they refuse, the employer may report them for unemployment fraud. Employers are asked not to share employees’ Social Security numbers to prevent identity theft. If IDOL determines that a former employee is engaging in fraud, it will stop the individual’s unemployment benefits and may turn the case over to a prosecuting attorney.

Continue Certifying Weekly

A claimant should continue certifying weekly to remain eligible for UI, PEUC, PUA or other assistance. If they receive a determination that awards them a lower amount than they expect, or zero dollars, they should continue to certify weekly. If they return to full employment, they can stop certifying weekly; it is not necessary to notify IDOL that they are no longer eligible for unemployment benefits.

Benefits Payment Information

A claimant will receive payments as a direct deposit to their checking or savings account or as money on a debit card, a U.S. Bank ReliaCard. It can take up to two days for direct deposit payments to begin. If there is a problem, IDOL will notify the claimant by email. Further, it can take two to three business days after the claimant submits the weekly certification to transfer the deposit into their bank account. IDOL will not transmit payments on state, federal or banking holidays or on weekends.

The U.S. Bank ReliaCard is a Visa card. If a claimant does not already have a UI payment card, the new card should arrive in their third week of unemployment, after IDOL has deemed them eligible. The claimant must call 855-203-3818 to activate the card and choose their PIN.

Typically IDOL makes funds available within two to four business days after the person reports for the prior week. For example, if a claimant certifies on Sunday before 7 p.m., funds will be available on their card the following Wednesday. There are fees for certain actions associated with the card, such as using out-of-network ATMs that are not U.S. Bank ATMs. A claimant cannot add or deposit funds from other sources to the card; only IDOL payments can be deposited to the card.

Taxes and Unemployment Benefits

The American Rescue Plan Act exempts $10,200 of unemployment benefits received in 2020 from federal income taxes. Idaho does not exempt unemployment insurance benefits from state income taxes. A person must declare that they received unemployment benefits on their tax forms, such as Form 1040 or Schedule C. The filer must report the monies they received from every unemployment-related program: UI, PEUC and PUA.

The IRS will automatically send refunds to people who filed their tax returns reporting unemployment compensation before the recent changes made by the American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law in January 2021.

IdahoWorks and Job Searches

IdahoWorks, IDOL’s service to assist job seekers and employers, remains active online. Applicants should access the site using Microsoft Edge or Google Chrome. The website was not designed to be accessed using Internet Explorer. When completing the online benefits application by phone or tablet, a claimant should use Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge or Apple Safari. They will not be able to complete the application with a mobile device if they are using Internet Explorer.

All labor services are currently available online, by phone or by appointment. An applicant can reserve an appointment at their local IDOL office to use a computer. IDOL offices do not process or resolve unemployment insurance claims.

At different points during the pandemic, IDOL has held job fairs in person at event centers such as the Galaxy Event Center. There are rules regarding masks, temperature checks and social distancing measures to protect applicants. IDOL has also held drive-thru job fairs in its center’s parking lots, with applicants discussing jobs with employers from their cars. As of early April 2021, Idaho does not have a work-share program for employees whose hours have been reduced.

Returning to Work

A claimant is eligible for benefits if they work less than full time during a calendar week, as long as their gross earnings are not equal to, or greater than, one and one half times their weekly benefit amount. If they earn less than half that amount, they will not see their UI check reduced. If they earn between half of their WBA and one and one half of their WBA, they will see a dollar-for-dollar reduction on their UI benefit check.

Schools Are Reopening

Many public schools under the Idaho Department of Education have reopened. A parent or guardian of a child in public school in the state can look up their child’s school district to see the status of its reopening plan. The status of the school reopening plan determines whether the adult worker can state that they are able to return to work part time or full time.

If a school district is currently offering hybrid or remote learning, the adult can truthfully state that they cannot resume full-time work. If a school district is currently offering fully in-person learning, but the adult chooses the fully remote or hybrid learning option, the adult cannot claim unemployment benefits because they choose to have their child learn from home.

How to Appeal UI Benefits

A claimant must file an appeal regarding their weekly benefit amount or denial of benefits within 14 days after service of the determination. This is almost always the date of the mailing of the determination, not the date the claimant received the determination. After receiving the appeal, IDOL’s Appeals Bureau will issue a notice of a phone hearing.

An attorney can represent a claimant, but legal representation is not required or provided. A claimant who hires an attorney to represent them should notify the Appeals Bureau by calling 208-332-3572.

Pending Issue and Browser Concerns

If a claimant’s status is noted as “pending issue stopping payment,” it is likely that IDOL needs more information to determine their eligibility. A claims representative will contact the claimant by phone or email regarding the matter – the claimant does not need to call IDOL to have the issue resolved. The issue status on the Claimant Portal takes overnight to reflect a resolved issue.