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Unemployment Benefits Eligibility
General Benefits Eligibility Criteria
Just because you and your employer have paid unemployment taxes, that doesn't mean you are automatically eligible for unemployment benefits. You must pass a series of criteria to gauge your Alaska unemployment benefits eligibility. Thankfully, Alaska unemployment is one of the more forgiving states regarding unemployment.
What kind of criteria must you pass? The first is a series of work eligibility criteria. These are put into place to ensure you continually search for work and still have the same employment status you had when you made your initial claim.
The other criteria focuses on your wages, to ensure that you and your employer have paid enough taxes to qualify you for benefits..
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Work Eligibility Criteria
To pass Alaska work eligibility criteria, you must:
- Have lost your job through no fault of your own
- Have worked for at least two quarters in the last 18 months to an employer who paid unemployment taxes – the more quarters you've worked, the more benefit money you’re likely to earn
- Continually seek work and report your wages
- Accept suitable full-time work when it is offered to you
- Not refuse suitable full-time work without a good reason
- Be physically able and available to work
- Report your work search regularly to maintain your benefits
- Register for work with Alaska's work search site, ALEXsys
Many of these points will be discussed in more depth below. If you don't think you pass these criteria, or are uncertain, file for unemployment to receive an assessment.
Wages Eligibility Criteria
You must earn wages during your base period and have a total gross income of $2,500 over two calendar quarters of that period to meet your unemployment wages criteria in Alaska.
Two base periods are used in Alaska: the Standard Base Period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters while the Alternative Base Period is the last four quarters prior to your claim.
All wages are first assessed by the Standard Base Period, and when found wanting, the Alternative Base Period is used.
Unemployment Availability Limits
Once you receive your unemployment benefits, you may be subject to availability limits based on your weekly claims (will be discussed below). Unemployment compensation for the week or entire benefit period is canceled if you:
- Refuse a full-time job
- Fail to report your job search
- Are unavailable or unable to work
- Quit a full-time job during your benefit period
- Get fired due to misconduct or criminal behavior at a job
- Improperly report your wages for the week
When you fail to report your wages properly, you may be guilty of fraud and could face criminal prosecution. All wages, including payments for room and board, goods given to you, tips, commission, stipend, per diem pay, back pay, jury duty pay, bonuses, severance pay, and retirement pay must be reported.
How much can you earn before your benefits are reduced? You can earn up to $50 with no loss in benefits. Any amount over $50 will deduce $0.75 for each dollar over. Gross wages that are equal to or more than your Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) plus $50 will cancel your benefits for the week.
EXAMPLE: If you earned $300, you could earn $50 in gross wages before losing any money for a total gross income of $350. However, if you earned $150 in gross wages, you would subtract $50 from $150 to get $100.
Now, multiply $100 by 0.75 to get $75. Subtract that amount from $300 to get $225. Note that your gross income for the week would be $375 after adding your $225 WBA to your $150 gross wages.
Alaska offers it own state-funded unemployment benefits extension. During periods of high unemployment (based on a series of formulas), Extended Benefits (EB) will be triggered, by law, to go into effect for a minimum of 13 weeks.
Eligibility for these benefits require having an active claim that ended on or after the first payable week of EB and the ability to work and accept suitable work.
Unemployed workers may be eligible for EB if they are not eligible for a new claim in Alaska or any other state.
They must have an active UI claim that ended on or after the first payable week of EB and must not be penalized for separating from their last employment due to quitting a job, being discharged for misconduct in connection with work, or refusing an offer of suitable work. Workers must have also made base period wages of 40 times their WBA or one and one-half their highest quarter wages.
However, State Supplemental Benefits may be available for those who do not meet these qualifications. Currently, Alaska's unemployment rate is low enough that extended benefits are not available. However, it is worth knowing about these benefits, should the state suffer from severe unemployment again in the future.