Rebound Idaho: Where are your unemployment benefits? IDOL answers your questions

Plus, additional tips for navigating the system.
Posted at 9:15 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 00:39:25-04

IDAHO — As part of our Rebound Idaho series, we are focusing our efforts on helping you protect your bottom line. And for tens of thousands of Idahoans right now, that means procuring unemployment benefits.

That’s why we caught up with a spokesperson of the Idaho Department of Labor (IDOL) to see if we can get some of your questions answered.

Q: Can people in unique high-risk situations cut the line to have someone with IDOL look at their claim?

A: "Claims are generally worked oldest to newest. They are not in order based on need," said IDOL spokesperson Leah Reeder.

Sadly, even if you’re on the edge of losing everything, the system still makes you wait in line.

Q: What if you were one of the first to apply (back in early March), you don’t fall in the self-employed category (as we previously reported, theirs are coming later), and you still haven’t gotten your benefits?

She says it could be because there’s some kind of intervention needed.

A: "If the claimant perhaps misunderstood a question, or if there were questions about their availability, something like that we actually have to reach out to them and clarify that information before we’re able to pay benefits," said Reeder. "Or if their driver’s license information was input incorrectly, we have to fix that behind the scenes.”

Q: Why are people being denied benefits based on their circumstances from a previous job, years ago?

A: “I think it’s a very — ya know — a common misunderstanding and a reasonable misunderstanding that you think unemployment would be based off your most recent employer, but it actually could go back two to three employers. And we’re seeing a lot of frustration from people in that boat.”

Q: So if you quit your second-to- last job for instance, could that make you ineligible for the benefits?

"It could, it could make you ineligible for Idaho regular unemployment insurance, but what we’re able to do is potentially then pay you unemployment under the federal program, if you’ve been affected by the COVID virus," said Reeder.

That program is called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). In Idaho, it pays a minimum of $168 per week -- not including the extra $600 a week you'd receive from Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC).

To find out if you’re eligible, you must first file a claim at the Claimant Portal webpage. Once a determination is made on your case, they say they will contact you.

Below please find some additional tips for dealing with Idaho's unemployment insurance system:

  1. They tell us the email system is so swamped and that they've basically stopped checking it... So calling is your best bet.
  2. When you do call, avoid peak times if possible. She says the worst day of the week to call is Monday, and the worst time of day is around 11:00 am to 1:00 p.m. Calling any other day and time gives you a better chance of getting through.
  3. Make sure you're able to receive a callback and your voice mailbox is not full. You'll probably want to answer those calls from unknown numbers for now -- just be careful of scams.
  4. And finally, if you're submitting information online, the system works best if you're using the Google Chrome browser.