Depending on why a worker loses their job, they might be eligible for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits in Missouri. UI compensation is available to those who meet specific requirements. Beginning in March 2020, Missouri residents received additional benefits thanks to federal programs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this may come to end as the state moves to opt out of this funding.
Eligibility Requirements in Missouri
The Division of Employment Security of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DES) is the agency that decides who gets UI benefits and for how long. There are three main requirements that applicants must meet to show eligibility for benefits. They must:
- Lose their job through no fault of their own, such as layoffs, reduction in force or lack of work.
- Make a minimum amount in wages before unemployment occurred.
- Show availability and willingness to work and actively seek employment while collecting benefits.
Usually, fired applicants and those who quit their jobs cannot receive UI benefits, but there are exceptions to this rule. People who lost work due to firing can qualify if they weren't a good fit or didn't have the skills to do the job. However, if there was misconduct, such as a willful disregard of an employer's interest, they cannot. Similarly, applicants who quit their job without good cause, such as a compelling reason for leaving, like sexual harassment or dangerous working conditions, will not receive benefits.
Missouri's Minimum Earnings Requirement
The DES calculates the unemployed worker's benefit amount through a base period, which is the first four of five complete calendar quarters before filing the initial claim. For example, if a worker files for UI in May 2021, their base period is from January 2020 to December 2020.
Unlike other states, Missouri does not have an alternate base period, so applicants must have earned a minimum of $2,250 during their base period, with a minimum of $1,500 in one quarter, and $750 in the remaining quarters. They must also meet these requirements:
- Their total earnings in the base period were 1.5 times those in their highest quarter.
- They made a minimum of $19,500 in two base period quarters.
Filing the First UI Claim
Applicants should file their first unemployment claim with the DES as soon as job separation occurs. They can do this via UInteract, the state's online claim filing system, which is available for use 24/7. They should have the following information at hand:
- Social Security number.
- Weekly gross earnings, including vacation, holiday or WARN pay.
- Contact information, including full name, address and employment dates for employers they held jobs with over the last 18 months before filing the claim.
- Banking information, including routing and account numbers if they choose the direct deposit option.
Applicants can also file their claim by calling DES Regional Claims Centers (RCC) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Phone numbers for local offices are:
- Jefferson City: 573-751-9040
- Kansas City: 816-889-3101
- St. Louis: 314-340-4950
- Springfield: 417-895-6851
- Outside local calling area: 800-320-2519
Worker Availability and Work Search
To continue receiving benefits, eligible claimants must continuously show availability each time they certify. They must also look for employment and keep a record of the contacts they make. The DES will ask for that information; in fact, the agency may also ask claimants to report their job search results in person at a local Missouri Career Center. Claimants will have to apply for a minimum number of jobs each week, the exact number of which will depend on their location.
Anyone who is offered a suitable position must accept it while collecting UI benefits. This will depend on how similar the position is to the claimant's previous one, how much they may earn, the job conditions and the experience, skills and training they'll need. The longer a claimant is out of work, the more they will have to consider jobs that pay less, are in a different industry or require a longer commute.
Amount and Duration of UI Benefits
Missourians eligible for UI benefits will receive a weekly benefit rate that is 4 percent of their average quarterly earnings during their base period's two highest paid quarters. They can expect to receive between $133 to $320 each week for 20 weeks. This duration may increase during times of high unemployment, as it has during the COVID-19 pandemic.
After filing, and provided they meet the state's eligibility requirements, claimants face a waiting period of one week. This will not lessen their benefits as they will receive payment for the waiting week as the final payment on their UI claim. It can take up to 22 days for applicants to receive their first payment, and the agency does not pay benefits on the same day every week.
Receiving Benefit Payments in Missouri
When a claimant wants UI benefits through direct deposit into their bank, they should check with their bank to see when their payments will be available. If they don't want to receive payments via direct deposit, they can get a Missouri Access MasterCard debit card. If the DES makes a payment Monday through Friday, the funds will be available on the card after 5:30 p.m. on that date. If the agency makes payments to the card on Saturday, they will be available after 5:30 p.m. on Monday.
Claimants can check their balance and payment history through UInteract and access card information through mo-access.com or the Missouri Access Automated Voice Response line at 888-775-3445. Information on payments is usually available within two business days after filing.
Federal Government Funding for UI Benefits
When the coronavirus pandemic came to the United States in March 2020, workers lost their jobs overnight and filed for UI benefits by the millions as businesses shut down from coast to coast. Congress stepped up with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to increase and extend benefits to the newly unemployed. The CARES Act includes funding for programs that reach a wide variety of workers. For example, independent contractors, who usually don't get UI benefits, received payments under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, and Missourians who receive state UI got a 13-week extension of benefits from the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program.
When the CARES Act ended on March 13, 2021, its programs continued under the American Rescue Plan Act, enacted by the Biden administration. The legislation added $300 a week to UI, PUA, and PEUC benefits. This funding is set to end on September 6, 2021.
Missouri Ends Pandemic Benefits
The state of Missouri may opt out of receiving funds from the American Rescue Plan Act in the near future, with some or all federal benefits ending as early as June 12, 2021. The decision will affect these programs:
- Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) for claimants working both w-2 and 1099 jobs.
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), the extra $300 on top of state UI benefits.
- Short-Time Compensation (STC), a work-sharing program that helps companies avoid layoffs.
- Emergency Unemployment Relief for Government Entities and Nonprofit Organizations.
Missouri officials maintain that the labor shortages in their state are due to enhanced benefits. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh believes, however, that the United States Department of Labor may hold enough legal power to continue aiding independent contractors and others who receive benefits under specific CARES Act wording.
Collecting UI and Part-Time Wages
When going back to work full time, workers can simply stop certifying their weekly claims. However, when earning part-time wages, they can still receive UI benefits. To do this, they must report gross wages each week by adding the total hours they worked each Sunday through Saturday and multiplying those by their hourly rate.
After workers input their gross wages, the DES calculates the reduced payments for those who work part time. It does this by subtracting $20, or 20 percent of the worker's weekly benefit amount, or WBA. The total is the amount of deduction, which the DES rounds down to an even dollar amount.
Claims for Out-of-State Residents
Applicants living out of state can file claims in Missouri if they physically worked there. Moving out of state does not affect a worker's UI eligibility. Much like state residents, workers living elsewhere can file a claim online through UInteract or by contacting a Regional Claims Center (RCC). To remain eligible, workers must visit or register with their state's job office and continue to seek full-time employment. If their address changes, they should notify the local Regional Claims Center office to update it.
Returning Overpayments to the State
Overpayments can occur in a number of ways, from claimants not reporting their wages to an error made by the DES. The agency monitors and detects overpayments through its Benefit Payment Control program by cross-matching its active accounts with new-hire data and quarterly wages reported by businesses. If it discovers a match, the DES sends an Audit and Investigation form to the employer confirming the worker's income.
If the DES finds that the claimant has not reported income, they must repay their UI benefits. Their employer will withhold the overpayment from their back pay as required by law and pay the DES. If a claimant knowingly withholds this information, they can also face fraud charges and possible arrest, fines and imprisonment.
Fraud Perpetuated by Employers
Sometimes it is not the worker who commits fraud, but also employers who classify employees as gig workers or independent contractors to avoid paying their taxes. Some employers also commit fraud by not reporting a worker's wages. The DES requests that anyone who suspects illegal activity to reach out if they believe an employer reports fraudulent earnings or doesn't report them at all. They can contact the agency by using its Report Worker Misclassification/1099 Abuse form (MODES-4610) or calling 573-751-1099.
Appealing a Denied Claim
If the DES denies a worker UI benefits, they can appeal. They can send their contact information, including Social Security number, employer's name and their reasons for disagreeing with the denial to the Division of Employment Security, Appeals Tribunal, P.O. Box 59, Jefferson City, Missouri 65104-0059
They can also appeal online through UInteract or fax their request to 573-751-1321. The DES does not allow the filing of appeals by phone or email. Claimants have 30 days from the date of the agency's decision to file an appeal.
- Department of Labor and Industrial Relations: Division of Employment Security Report Worker Misclassification/1099 Abuse Form
- Missouri Access: Homepage
- Department of Labor and Industrial Relations: Missouri's Online Unemployment System
- Department of Labor and Industrial Relations: Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits
- Department of Labor and Industrial Relations: Three Easy Steps for Filing for Unemployment Desk Aid
- Department of Labor and Industrial Relations: Contact the Department of Labor
- KSHB: Missouri Gov. Mike Parson Directs State to End Participation in Pandemic-related Federal Unemployment Programs
- Department of Labor and Industrial Relations: Overpayments
- Department of Labor and Industrial Relations: Information for Workers
- Department of Labor and Industrial Relations: Report Unemployment Fraud
- Department of Labor and Industrial Relations: Unemployed Workers Knowledge Base
- NOLO: Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Missouri
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.