CORONAVIRUS

Iowa eases unemployment claim process for employers, workers laid off from COVID-19

Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend #x201c;encourages all employers to utilize paid leave and telework opt
Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend “encourages all employers to utilize paid leave and telework options for employees before utilizing temporary layoffs.” Above, Townsend delivers remarks during a keynote forum at the 2018 Iowa Ideas Cnference in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Iowans laid off or stuck at home as a result of COVID-19 could be eligible for state unemployment benefits, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Monday.

Employers will not be charged for unemployment insurance claims identified as a direct or indirect result of the virus — if an employee has been laid off, must self-isolate or to care for family members or due to illness — according to a release from Iowa Workforce Development.

Claimants then can expect to receive payment within seven to 10 days of filing.

State officials will waive fact-finding interviews for these claims, though employers still will be notified of claims received.

“Iowa has incredible employers accommodating the needs of Iowans during the disruption caused by COVID-19,” Reynolds said in a news release.

“The state of Iowa is doing everything we can to ease the process and shorten the time it will take for Iowans to receive unemployment benefits. All our state agencies continue to work as one team to lessen the impact COVID-19 will have on our economy and our people.”

Claimants still must meet the state’s unemployment eligibility requirements, including that an employer has claimed them as a worker in six of the past 18 months, and they’ve earned at least $2,500 over that time frame.

Iowa Workforce Development, said Beth Townsend, the agency’s director, “encourages all employers to utilize paid leave and telework options for employees before utilizing temporary layoffs. Iowa Workforce Development will continue to monitor the situation, working with our stakeholders and updates will be released on our webpage.”

IWD announced the changes to its unemployment claim process Monday shortly after reporting the state’s unemployment rate remained at 2.8 percent for a second consecutive month in January, with December’s rate revised from 2.7 percent to 2.8 percent.

The state’s unemployment rate grew to the original 2.7 percent in December after two months at 2.6 percent — in October and November — and three months at 2.5 percent, between July and September.

Beforehand, the unemployment rate held constant at 2.4 percent for a full year, since July 2018.

There were 1,704,900 working Iowans in January — an increase of 600 from December and 33,000 from January 2019, the state’s release said.

“Although the unemployment rate has gone up slightly over the winter months, there are still employers looking for skilled workers in high-demand fields,” Townsend said.

“Iowans can connect with these job opportunities through our online employment resource www.IowaWORKS.gov or by meeting with a workforce adviser at one of our IowaWORKS centers across the state.”

The latest numbers from IWD show about 200 more Iowans were jobless in January compared to December, as the number of unemployed workers rose from 49,300 to 49,500. That estimate is 3,900 higher than the year-ago level of 45,600.

The U.S. unemployment rate increased slightly to 3.6 percent in January.

Iowa businesses shed 900 jobs in January, as part of a three-month downward trend that has left the state with a current total of 1,584,500 non-farm jobs. A collective 1,300 jobs were added across construction and financial activities, while 2,200 positions were lost across manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; and leisure and hospitality.

Iowans who have stopped looking for work or who otherwise have cycled out of the system are not counted among the unemployed.

Comments: (319) 398-8366; thomas.friestad@thegazette.com

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