Wisconsin Unemployment

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Unemployment Benefits Eligibility and Qualifications

General Benefits Eligibility Criteria

Qualifying for Wisconsin unemployment insurance benefits requires meeting  specific eligibility criteria. These criteria help to make sure that only those that meet certain qualifications receive unemployment benefits and to ensure that funds don't run out of an employer's unemployment insurance tax funds.

Work Eligibility Criteria

The first step in gauging your Wisconsin unemployment benefits eligibility is to see if you meet the work criteria. These criteria include if you:

  • Worked the last 12 to 18 months
  • Were employed by someone who paid unemployment taxes
  • Lost your job through no personal fault (such as being laid off due to downsizing or being let go due to performance-based concerns)
  • Quit your job for an appropriate reason (such as a health concern that can be proven by a doctor's note)
  • Received approval for your unemployment benefits by your employer

Once you meet these Wisconsin unemployment work eligibility criteria, you need to qualify under the wages criteria. The amount of money you must have earned to meet these criteria varies from state-to-state.

Wages Eligibility Criteria

The wages eligibility criteria in Wisconsin are somewhat complicated. They require gauging your highest earning quarter in either the standard base period or the alternative base period of your last employment period.

The standard base period is the first four quarters of the five quarter period before you were terminated. The alternative base period is the last four quarters. You must have earned a minimum of $1,325 in your highest paying quarter during either period to qualify.

How do you decide which is the appropriate base period to use? Start by gauging your eligibility by the standard base period. For example, if you lost your job in August 2016, your standard base period would be April 2015 to March 2016. The last completed quarter (April to June 2016) would not be counted.

If your highest quarter payment was below $1,325, then you would use the alternative base period, which would be July 2015 to June 2016. If you qualify under either base period, you must still meet the following criteria to qualify:

  • The wages in your three lowest quarters must equal at least four times your Weekly Benefit Amount (as decided by this chart)
  • Your total base period wages must be equal to at least 35 times your Weekly Benefit Amount
  • You must have worked since the beginning of any year you previously claimed unemployment benefits and earned at least eight times the Weekly Benefit Amount of that year

These criteria might seem somewhat complicated, but the good news is they will be automatically calculated when you file for unemployment. This helps to make the whole process easier to understand.

EXAMPLE: If your highest paying quarter was $8,000, you would earn $320 as a Weekly Benefit Amount. To qualify under these criteria conditions, you must have earned $11,200 during your base period and $1,280 in your three lowest paying quarters.

Unemployment Availability Limits

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Availability limits in Wisconsin allow you to receive benefits up to 26 weeks. Your unemployment insurance will be denied or you could lose your benefits or receive a decreased amount if you:

  • Accept an appropriate full-time job (one that offers you pay and benefits that are at or near your former job: typically around 90 percent of those benefits)
  • Quit your job without a good reason – your benefits will be suspended until you earn at least six times your Weekly Benefit Amount
  • Were fired for misconduct – you must earn 14 times your Weekly Benefit Amount to re-qualify after your employer's base period wages are removed
  • Refuse work without good cause – you will lose benefits until earning six times your Weekly Benefit Amount
  • Don't make an acceptable work search for a week – you will lose that week's benefits
  • Are unable to work or unavailable to work in a week – this will be investigated to gauge why and to decide if it was for a good reason
  • Worked for a school only during the school year – teachers and other educational employees don't receive unemployment during the summer, but typically receive higher wages when they do work to make up the difference
  • Receive Social Security disability payments
  • Fail or decline a drug screen
  • Receive retirement pay – your benefits will be decreased by 50 percent of your retirement pay

You will also receive decreased benefits if you work a part-time job or receive what is known as a “partial wage.” You must report how much you make every week and compute the following formula based on your gross wages (payment before taxes) to calculate your new Weekly Benefit Amount:

  • Subtract $30 from the gross income
  • Multiply this amount by 0.67
  • Subtract the total amount from your Weekly Benefit Amount
  • Round down to the nearest whole dollar

EXAMPLE: If you receive $300 in benefits and made $100 in gross income, subtract 100 by 30 (70) and multiply that by 0.67 ($46.90) and subtract that from your benefit amount to get a new Weekly Benefit Amount of $253.

Unemployment Extensions

Currently, Wisconsin has no unemployment extension benefits. From 2008 to 2013, the state extended benefits using the Emergency Unemployment Compensation fund. No state program was set up to replace the fund when it expired.