North Dakotans who have suffered a layoff or seen a substantial reduction in hours are eligible for unemployment insurance (UI). They will then be eligible for the federal government's Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and after that, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). A self-employed person or an independent contractor is eligible for PUA. North Dakota has waived the unpaid waiting week during the pandemic.
Weekly Benefit Amount
The minimum weekly benefit amount (WBA) in the state of North Dakota is $43, and the maximum weekly benefit amount is $640. An unemployment insurance claimant can estimate their WBA by reading the current benefit schedule from Job Service North Dakota (JSND). The benefit schedule and amounts for WBAs change every July.
The number of weeks an individual can receive benefits relates to the wages earned from employment during their base period. A base period is the one-year period that determines how much money a claimant can receive. It is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the claimant’s application is effective. A claimant’s WBA is the total of their highest two and one-half quarters of base period earnings divided by 65.
Work Search Requirement Reinstated
North Dakota reinstated the work search requirement to receive unemployment insurance benefits the week of July 26, 2020. A claimant will be required to search for work and register for employment with Job Service North Dakota if they are not coded as returning to their employer after a temporary layoff. A claimant who is not returning to their employer is required to complete three job search activities a week and must register with JSND within 10 days of filing their claim.
Activities include contacting an employer by phone, internet or in-person visit. A claimant can register for work at ND Workforce Connection. Applicants for both state and federal unemployment benefits are required to be actively seeking work and to register. A claimant is not required to search for work or register if they are a union member who receives jobs via a hiring hall or a worker who is returning to work for an employer that temporarily laid them off.
If either of these two conditions are present, the claimant must immediately respond when the union or employer calls them for work. An individual who fails to return to the union or their previous employer when work is offered will see their claim stopped. The individual may be denied benefits from the time of refusal.
Waiver of Work Search for the Self-Employed
A PUA claimant who is self-employed and not normally eligible for UI benefits is required to complete a waiver of work search form and supply it to JSND. The waiver is available to self-employed individuals who have not resumed normal business activities. Self-employed people are not required to complete a work search or register for employment unless they do not plan to resume operating their business.
Unemployment Insurance Benefits
North Dakota establishes a 52-week benefit year for claimants. UI usually provides 12 to 26 weeks of benefits. An individual cannot file another new claim in North Dakota until the benefit year has ended. An individual should certify every week that they want to receive UI benefits.
The claim week is from Sunday through midnight on Saturday. The claimant can certify each week any time after midnight on Saturday. They must certify within two weeks of starting their claim or within two weeks of the last week they certified.
Pandemic Emergency UI Compensation
The federal American Rescue Plan Act extended PEUC payments to 53 weeks, with the program expiring on September 4, 2021. An individual who has exhausted UI benefits and worked at a position for which they received a W-2 form will automatically be considered for PEUC. Note that Job Service North Dakota must review and manually file the individual’s claim. If JSND is missing information, it will send a letter or call the claimant. An individual can view communications on the correspondence page on their JSND Unemployment Insurance Internet Claims Entry System (UI ICE) account.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
The American Rescue Plan Act extended PUA payments to 79 weeks, with the program expiring on September 4, 2021. To qualify for PUA, a claimant must prove their unemployment was caused by a COVID-19 related reason. They must also show they are able and available for work, except if they are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable for work as a direct of COVID-19 reasons specified in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). People who fall into this category include individuals who no longer have a job and have been unemployed for at least a week because of COVID-19 related reasons; those who cannot work because of an injury caused as a direct result of the coronavirus; and those who were to have started work, but no longer have a job or are unable to reach the job.
An applicant for PUA must show proof of income or proof of prospective employment. They can upload these documents online, a maximum of five files at a time. Acceptable proof of employment includes recent pay stubs or vouchers, an earnings statement, a recent bank record showing a payroll direct deposit, or a 2019 or 2020 federal income tax statement, depending on when their claim arose.
Acceptable proof of self-employment includes recent records connected to the individual’s business phone or utility bill, a current business license or rental agreement for their place of business, business financial statements, or a 2019 or 2020 federal income tax statement, depending on when their claim arose. Acceptable proof of prospective employment includes a job letter offer on company letterhead. The letter should state the name and address of the employer, the employer contact name and phone number and the start date, hours and duration of the job.
Immigrants and Unemployment Benefits
People who are undocumented immigrants cannot claim federal or state unemployment benefits. The requirement of being able and available to work depends on the person being authorized to work. An individual, such as a legal permanent resident, who was legally permitted to work in the U.S. at the time their employment and was impacted by the pandemic, may be eligible for unemployment benefits.
File an Unemployment Insurance Claim
A claim cannot be backdated to an earlier week. An individual should file as soon as possible after a layoff or seeing a reduction in hours. There are two ways to file a claim, online using JSND’s UI ICE site or by phone using JSND’s automated telephone system at 701-328-4995. The UI ICE internet application and automated phone system are both unavailable every day between 10 p.m. and midnight CT due to maintenance. Claims Center staff take calls between Monday and Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT.
A claimant who returns to work, but is subsequently let go again should reopen an existing claim on the UI ICE website. The claimant can do this if they become unemployed again during their 52-week benefit year. They should file the claim the week they are laid off. The claim will become effective the Sunday of the week they reopen the claim.
For UI purposes, the week always starts on Sunday and ends on Saturday. The claimant should certify within 13 days of the Saturday of the week in which they started their claim or the last week they had previously certified.
Receiving Payments From JSND
A claimant can receive unemployment insurance benefit payments via direct deposit or a prepaid debit card. In order to receive payments via direct deposit, they need to visit JSND’s UI ICE site and select Payment Option on the main menu or select the Change Payment Option on the phone. If the claimant does not choose direct deposit, they will automatically be enrolled in the ReliaCard Visa prepaid card program and will receive their card in the mail.
North Dakota’s Way2Go card is issued by Comerica Bank. A user will be charged fees if they make cash withdrawals at an ATM that is not at a Comerica Bank or is not a MoneyPass ATM. Comerica Bank will create and mail a card to a claimant only after they have been certified for their first payable week. It can take several days for the card to be created and mailed to the claimant.
Finding a Job
Job Service North Dakota is currently holding in-person and virtual career fairs. JSND centers offer online assistance, as well as in-person services. JSND also shares news of on-the-spot, in-person employer hiring events. An individual who wants to see what assistance and events are occurring in their area can visit the website for the JSND center in their city, like the site for the Fargo Workforce Center.
Return to Work
An individual who returns to part-time work will see a reduction in unemployment benefits. A claimant is required to report monies received from a retirement fund, pension or annuity; money from employment or self-employment; benefits or insurance for loss of wages; and supplemental unemployment benefits paid pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement. North Dakota does not have a WorkShare program, which allows an employer to reduce hours for a group of employees, but retain all of the members of the group.
Schools Are Reopening
North Dakota school districts are making individual decisions about schools reopening. A parent or guardian with a child at a school that is offering full-time, in-person learning but chooses to have their child remain in virtual school will not be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. If a parent or guardian’s school district experiences a coronavirus-related closure, the parent or guardian can claim unemployment benefits for the weeks for which the school offered only distance learning.
File an Appeal
A claimant who disagrees with a JSND decision can file an appeal online at UI ICE. They can also submit a written request for an appeal in writing or in person at a Job Service office, by fax to 701-328-1882 or by mail to the Appeals Section, P.O. Box 5507, Bismarck, ND 58506. They must file the request for an appeal on, or prior to, the deadline date listed in their notice, determination or decision.
Hearings usually take place by phone, but a claimant may request that a hearing be conducted in person. The claimant must make the request at the time they file their appeal or at the earliest possible time before the hearing. A participant in a phone hearing must call the Appeals Section any time before 3 p.m. CT the work day before the date of the hearing.
The toll-free number for this call is listed on the notice of hearing. The claimant must provide the phone number where they can be reached. If the hearing is being conducted in person, the claimant must report to the designated location at least 10 minutes before the start of the hearing. The location will be on the hearing notice.
Unemployment Fraud and Penalties
A claimant can commit unemployment insurance fraud by providing false information to JSND, including failing to state the amount they earned from employment or self-employment when certifying weekly. If a claimant receives an overpayment, JSND will request that the claimant repay it. JSND has recouped overpaid funds by deducting a portion of a claimant’s future benefits. Penalties include criminal prosecution, jail or prison time, forfeiting future income tax refunds and losing eligibility to collect UI benefits in the future.
- Job Service North Dakota: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
- Job Service North Dakota: Unemployment Insurance Benefits Estimator
- Job Service North Dakota: Computation of Weekly Benefit Amount -- Benefit Schedule 7/5/2020 Through 7/3/2021
- Health North Dakota: Job Service Reminds Claimants of Upcoming Changes to Unemployment Insurance Program
- ND Workforce Connection: Registration
- North Dakota Department of Public Instruction: NDDPI Updates and Guidance on COVID-19, Frequently Asked Questions
- Job Service North Dakota: What if I Disagree With a Job Service Decision?
- Job Service North Dakota: After My Claim Is Filed
- Job Service North Dakota: Unemployment Insurance Way2Go Card – Frequently Asked Questions
- Job Service North Dakota: File a Claim
- Job Service North Dakota: Begin Your Job Search
- Job Search North Dakota: Events
- Job Service North Dakota: Fargo Workforce Center
- Job Service North Dakota: PUA Application for Self-Employed Individuals
- Job Service North Dakota: What Is Unemployment Insurance Fraud?
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.