Alabama Department of Labor – Unemployment Insurance Program
Safeguarding Livelihoods: Navigating Unemployment Insurance Program in Alabama
Unemployment insurance is a combined federal and state program to support eligible workers who have been laid off and are actively seeking new jobs by providing temporary monetary benefits. Those who qualify receive unemployment compensation, a percentage of their lost wages, through weekly cash benefits during their job search.
The federal government is in charge of overseeing the overall administration of state unemployment insurance systems. In contrast, states have jurisdiction over specific program aspects such as eligibility requirements and benefit length.
Despite its name, unemployment insurance differs from private insurance plans such as home, car, or health insurance in several ways. Instead of individuals paying for it, employers usually pay unemployment taxes that fund the state unemployment insurance programs. When someone loses their job and meets eligibility requirements, they can receive temporary financial assistance through these state-administered unemployment insurance programs. However, it’s important to note that unemployment insurance is not intended to replace lost wages fully. Its primary goal is to provide partial financial support during the job search period, helping individuals cope with the transition until they secure new employment.
Alabama’s unemployment insurance program timeline
The timeline below illustrates major events in Alabama’s unemployment insurance program’s history, offering insight into its evolution and adjustments through time. Please note that this timeline partially accounts for the state’s unemployment insurance program.
As of May 1, 1938, Alabama’s unemployment insurance program offered a maximum weekly benefit amount (WBA) of $15 for up to 20 weeks.
As of January 1, 1985, Alabama’s unemployment insurance program offered a maximum WBA of $120 for up to 26 weeks.
Gov. Robert Bentley (R) signed legislation enabling partially unemployed workers to earn up to one-third of their weekly benefit amount (WBA) through employment without reducing unemployment benefits. Previously, all earnings above $15 were deducted from the WBA.
A March 2021 report from the U.S. The Department of Labor revealed that the trust funds in 40 states and territories, including Alabama, had dropped below the recommended minimum solvency standard as of January 1, 2021.
On January 27, 2022, the Alabama Legislature passed a plan for spending American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, allocating $79.5 million of the state’s $2.1 billion ARPA funds to replenish the unemployment trust fund.
After the bill’s passage, Alabama Department of Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington announced that the state had moved to a lower tax schedule, resulting in an estimated 29% decrease in employers’ state unemployment insurance tax burden. Without the $79.5 million allocation, unemployment taxes would have increased by about 3% in 2022.
In March 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor report indicated that Alabama had an AHCM value of 0.08.
The duration of unemployment benefits differs across states, with the standard term usually being 26 weeks. However, each state sets its specific terms. For instance, as of 2022, Arkansas provided 16 weeks of benefits, Massachusetts offered 30 weeks, and Montana gave 28 weeks.
In Alabama’s unemployment insurance program, as of February 2023, eligible individuals were entitled to up to 20 weeks of benefits. The benefit amounts ranged from a minimum of $45 per week to a maximum of $275 per week.
During elevated unemployment rates, some states offer extended benefits to workers who have already exhausted their regular unemployment insurance benefits. The duration of these extended benefits can vary depending on the state, with some states providing up to 13 weeks and, during periods of extremely high unemployment, up to 20 weeks.
However, it is important to note that as of February 2023, the Alabama unemployment insurance program did not offer extended benefits.
The unemployment insurance program relies on funding from state and federal taxes imposed on employers, commonly known as unemployment taxes.
The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax is 6% of an employee’s first $7,000 salary. Employers who pay their state unemployment taxes on time, on time, can earn a FUTA tax offset of up to 5.4%. With the full 5.4% FUTA credit, these employers pay only 0.6% of the first $7,000 of an employee’s wages, amounting to $42 in FUTA tax per qualifying employee.
New employers contribute to the unemployment insurance system at a specific rate designed for them. Over time, established employers may receive an experience rating, depending on state regulations. The quantity of unemployment claims associated with the employer impacts this rating. If an employer has more unemployment claims, their tax rate may increase accordingly.
When the reserves for state unemployment insurance programs are low, states can borrow from the federal Treasury under the Title XII program. The states must repay their unemployment insurance program debts within two to three years, or federal taxes on employers in the state will automatically increase until the debt is settled. Additionally, when states have overdue unemployment insurance debts to the federal Treasury, the FUTA tax offset is reduced.
The eligibility criteria for unemployment insurance recipients vary from state to state. Generally, recipients must have lost their employment through no fault of their own to qualify. However, the program typically does not cover individuals who voluntarily left their positions, were terminated for cause, or sought to reenter the workforce after a voluntary exit. Unemployment insurance programs usually do not cover first-time job seekers, students, self-employed individuals, gig workers, and undocumented workers.
In addition, states often require recipients to meet certain work and wage thresholds. Unemployed workers in most states must have worked for a minimum amount of time or earned a specific minimum income from their employer (ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 in 2019) to be eligible for benefits.
To retain weekly eligibility, participants must generally perform the following tasks, according to the U.S. Department of Labor:
- File weekly or biweekly claims, typically through mail or phone.
- Be capable and available to work, actively seeking employment each week they claim benefits.
- Report any earnings from work during the claimed period, with varying rules on income limits depending on the state.
- Report any job offers or job offers declined during the week.
- Comply with requests to visit their local U.I. claims office or American Job Center on scheduled dates and times; attendance may result in denial of benefits.
- Some states may require recipients to register for work with the State Employment Service to receive assistance in finding employment.
Additionally, when filing their tax returns, recipients must report their unemployment insurance benefits as part of their gross income.
Regarding Alabama’s unemployment insurance program, recipients must meet the following criteria to qualify for benefits:
- Lost employment through no fault of their own.
- She earned wages in at least two calendar quarters during the base period (the first 12 months of the 15 months before filing a claim). The total base period wages must equal or exceed one and a half times the claimant’s highest earnings quarter.
- Be unemployed or partially employed, earning less than their weekly unemployment insurance benefits.
- Be able and available to work.
How to apply for the Alabama Unemployment Insurance Program?
Here are the steps on how to apply for Alabama Unemployment Insurance Program:
Gather the required information. You will need the following information to file your claim:
- Your Social Security Number
- Your work history for the last 18 months, including your employers’ business names, addresses, telephone numbers, and dates of employment
- If you are not a U.S. citizen, your alien registration number
- Your most recent pay stubs
- Your separation information from your most recent employer
File your claim online or by phone. You can file your claim online at the Alabama Claimant Portal: https://uiclaimantportal.labor.alabama.gov/ or by phone at 866-234-5382.
Prepare to answer inquiries regarding your previous work and separation. When you file your claim, you will be asked to answer questions about your employment history and separation. Be prepared to provide the following information:
- The dates you worked for each employer
- Your job title and duties
- Your reason for separation
File your weekly certifications. Once you have filed your initial claim, you must file weekly certifications to continue receiving benefits. You can file your weekly certifications online or by phone.
Be aware of the deadlines. There are deadlines for filing your initial claim and your weekly certifications. You must complete all deadlines to maintain your benefits.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What are the eligibility criteria for the Unemployment Insurance Program in Alabama?
To be eligible for the Unemployment Insurance Program in Alabama, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must be a resident of Alabama.
- It would help if you were unemployed through no fault of your own.
- You must have worked in Alabama during the past 12 months (this period may be longer sometimes).
- You must have earned a minimum amount of wages determined by Alabama guidelines.
- You must be available, seeking, and willing to accept full-time work immediately.
It would help if you were not disqualified for benefits due to a disqualifying event.
In Alabama, the minimum wage required to be eligible for benefits is $1,200 for the base period. The base period is the first four of the most recent five full calendar quarters before the filing of your claim.
In Alabama, the maximum weekly benefit amount is $275. Your earnings will determine your benefits during the base period.
If you believe you may be eligible for unemployment benefits in Alabama, you can file a claim online or by phone. You can find more information on the Alabama Department of Labor website: https://labor.alabama.gov/unemployment.aspx.
After applying, how long does it take to receive approval for unemployment benefits?
The processing time for unemployment benefits in Alabama can vary depending on the individual case. However, the average processing time is 1–2 weeks.
Here are some factors that can affect the processing time for unemployment benefits in Alabama:
- The completeness of your application.
- The availability of records to verify your employment history.
- The complexity of your case.
- The number of claims being processed at the time.
You will get a letter outlining your options if you are eligible for unemployment benefits. Weekly payments will be made to your bank account or A.L. Vantage Card.
If you have yet to receive a decision on your claim within 2 weeks, you can contact the Alabama Department of Labor at 866-234-5382 to inquire about the status of your claim.
What is the maximum weekly benefit amount I can receive through the Unemployment Insurance Program in Alabama, and how is this amount calculated?
The maximum weekly benefit amount available under the Unemployment Insurance Program is $275 in Alabama. Your earnings throughout the base period will determine your benefits.
The base period is the first four of the most recent five full calendar quarters before the filing of your claim. You must have earned at least $1,200 during the base period to be eligible for benefits.
Your weekly benefit amount will be calculated as follows:
- Average quarterly earnings: Your average quarterly earnings in your two highest-paid quarters of the base period.
- Weekly benefit rate: 1/26 of your average quarterly earnings.
- Maximum weekly benefit amount: $275.
For example, if your average quarterly earnings in your two highest-paid quarters of the base period are $2,000, your weekly benefit rate would be $76.92 (2,000 / 26). The maximum weekly benefit amount you could receive would be $275.
If your weekly benefit amount is less than $45, you will receive the minimum weekly benefit amount of $45.
You may also be eligible for additional benefits, such as the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. These programs provide additional weeks of benefits and may increase your weekly benefit amount.
Do I need to report any earned income while receiving unemployment benefits? If so, how do I report it?
Yes, you must report any earned income while receiving unemployment benefits in Alabama. You can report your earned income by filing a weekly certification online or by phone.
When you complete your weekly certification, you will be asked to declare any profits you received throughout the week. You will also be asked to provide the dates you worked and the money you earned.
Your benefits will be lower if you earn more than your weekly benefit amount. For example, if your weekly benefit amount is $200 and you earn $250 weekly, your benefits will be reduced by $50.
You must report all earned income, even if it is not from a traditional job. This includes earnings from self-employment, freelance work, and temporary or part-time jobs.
You may be prohibited from obtaining unemployment benefits if you do not record your earned income.
Here are the steps for reporting earned income while receiving unemployment benefits in Alabama:
- Log in to your Alabama Claimant Portal account.
- Click on the “Weekly Certification” tab.
- Answer the questions about your job search activities and earned income.
- Submit your weekly certification.
You can also report your earned income by phone by calling 866-234-5382.
How do I certify for weekly benefits, and why is it necessary?
To certify for weekly unemployment benefits in Alabama, claimants must log into the Alabama Claimant Portal and navigate to the “Weekly Certification” tab, or they can do it via phone by calling 866-234-5382. The certification involves answering questions about their employment status, work search activities, and income earned. This process is crucial to maintaining the flow of benefits and keeping the department updated about claimants’ efforts to find work, any income earned, and changes in contact information. Failure to certify could lead to the suspension of benefits. Therefore, weekly certification serves multiple purposes, including continuing benefits, work search activity reporting, income reporting, and keeping claimant information up-to-date.