How to navigate filing for unemployment

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

The state of Idaho reported about 25,000 employees have filed for unemployment benefits between Jan. 2020 and March 27, 2020. Over 750 people in Bonner County alone have filed for benefits as of March 27, representing a 3.7% unemployment rate, not including an adjustment to exclude seasonal unemployment. 

On a national level, the numbers are staggering. Last week alone, over 3.3 million people filed for unemployment benefits, up from 282,000 the week prior.

The Idaho Dept. of Labor. Courtesy photo.

It’s likely that many reading this now have filed or are in the process for filing for unemployment benefits for the first time. Here are a couple of frequently asked questions and answers, provided by the Idaho Department of Labor.

How can I file for unemployment benefits?

The best way is to file online at If claimants require assistance or do not have access to a computer, they may call the claims center at 208-332-8942. Before filing, gather the following information: your work history information for the last two years, including employer name(s), addresses, phone numbers, supervisors and dates of employment; your current contact information, driver’s license or state ID number and work authorization information, if applicable; your bank account number and bank routing number, if you choose direct deposit to receive payments; the date your employer states you will be returning to full-time work, if applicable.

Will workers qualify for UI if the coronavirus causes an employer to temporarily or permanently shut down operations?

Yes. If an employer shuts down operations and no work is available or reduces an individual’s hours due to a drop in business, the Idaho Dept. of Labor considers this a lay off due to lack of work and the individual may be eligible for benefits.

If my employees received unemployment benefits as a result of a coronavirus-related business shutdown, will my UI account be charged?

It depends. Part of Gov. Little’s emergency proclamation provides that experience rated employers (most businesses) will not be charged for unemployment claims attributed to COVID-19. There is no change to cost reimbursed employers. Cost reimbursed employers include nonprofit and government employers.

Are employees required to look for work?

It depends. If they are unemployed due to COVID-19 related reasons and the employer plans to have them return to work, employees are not required to register for work or seek work. Make sure they answer “yes” to the question asking if they are returning to work within 16 weeks on the UI application.

Can an employee work part time and still receive unemployment?

Yes. They can receive some or all of their weekly unemployment payment if they work part time. Gross earnings must be reported on the weekly certification during the week earned (not when paid).

Are independent contractors or self-employed workers covered?

No, they are generally not covered. Employees must have worked for an employer covered by the Employment Security Act within the past 2 years to potentially be eligible.

How long will workers receive benefits? How much will they receive?

Amounts range from $72 to $448 per week for 10-20 weeks.

How long does it take for someone to receive their first payment?

First payments can range from 1 to 10 weeks, depending on pending issues requiring additional information to determine eligibility. The governor’s emergency proclamation waived the standard waiting week for claims filed on or after March 8, 2020 until further notice.

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