Alaska may be one of the remotest regions of the US, but that hasn’t made it immune to the effects of COVID-19. If you’ve lost your job or had your hours cut as a result of the crisis, you’re not alone. You’re also not without recourse. In response to the economic turmoil, the government has introduced the CARES Act, a $2 trillion stimulus package that, among other things, expands the unemployment benefits package. If you’re a resident of Alaska whose income has been affected by COVID-19, it’s worth investigating if, and how, the act could help you.
Do I Qualify For Unemployment Benefits In Alaska?
- To qualify for unemployment benefits under normal circumstances, you would need to:
- Have lost your income or have had your hours cut through no fault of your own.
- Be able, ready and willing to work and be actively seeking work.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, Alaska has dropped the work-search requirement of its eligibility criteria. If any of the below applies to you, you may be eligible to claim unemployment.
- I am sick with COVID-19.
- I am in quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19 (you will need to provide a medical certificate to verify the exposure).
- I am a caregiver to someone who is sick with COVID-19 or who is in quarantine after exposure to COVID-19.
- I have been laid off because of COVID-19.
- My hours have been cut because of COVID-19.
- I cannot get to work, or do not feel it would be safe to go, because of COVID-19.
- I cannot work because of COVID-19 related school closures.
- I am self-employed or a gig worker who has lost income as a result of COVID-19.
While Alaska has waived its work-search requirement, you’ll still be expected to meet a minimum earnings requirement. The state will evaluate your eligibility based on what you earned during your base period. Your base period is calculated as:
- January 1, 2019, to December 31, 2019, for claims filed between April and June 2020.
- April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020, for claims filed between July and September 2020.
- July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020, for claims filed between October and December 2020.
To claim, you’ll need to have earned at least $2,500 over two-quarters of your base period. If you haven’t earned enough in the usual timeframe, the state will use an alternate base period framework based on the last four quarters to assess your earnings.
You can file your initial claim in one of two ways:
By Phone. The state uses an automated filing system named Victor. If you live more than 55 miles away from a job center, you should file your claim Wednesday to Saturday 6 a.m-7. p.m. Otherwise, you should file Thursdays, 6 a.m. -7p.m. The phone numbers are: Anchorage Area: (907) 277-0963; Fairbanks Area: (907) 451-6126; Juneau Area: (907) 586-4650; Remote locations without broadband: (888) 222-9989.
Online. Register for an account at myAlaska. The system will guide you through account set up via a series of prompts.
Due to the high call volume currently being experienced, the department recommends new claimants register their claim online wherever possible.
As part of the application process, you’ll need to provide the following information:
- Social Security Number.
- Alien Registration Number (if applicable).
- Mailing address, date of birth, email address, and telephone number.
Complete employment history for the past 18 months, to include name of each employer, employer’s telephone number and address, your occupation with that employer, first and last dates of employment, reason for employment ending.
- Pension information (if applicable).
- Severance pay (if applicable).
- Recall date (if applicable).
- Union hiring hall information, including local number and address (if applicable).
- Military Form DD-214 (if you served in the military within the last 18 months).
- Form SF-8 or SF-50 (if you were a federal employee).
- You bank account information (if you choose to have benefits paid by direct deposit).
How Much Money Will I Get?
Your state benefit entitlement will depend on your previous income, with most people averaging between a minimum of $56 and a maximum of $370. As the Motley Fool notes, you may also be eligible to claim up to $24 per week depending on the number of dependents you have. If you’d like to get an estimate of your potential benefits, try the online calculator at FileUnemployment.org. Simply enter your quarterly wages and the calculator will return your projected benefit entitlement. Just remember this is intended as a guide only: your actual entitlement may vary.
As part of the CARES Act, you will also receive a supplementary $600 per week on top of what the state allows. You do not need to apply for this separately, even if your claim had already been filed at the time of the act’s introduction. The state will calculate any amount you are due and issue payment separately to your normal benefits, backdated to the end of March.
How Long Can I Claim Unemployment Benefits?
Typically, Alaska allows you to claim unemployment benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks. Under the CARES Act, this period has been extended to 39 weeks, valid until the end of July.
After you’ve filed your initial claim, you’ll need to continue filing biweekly claims to receive benefits. Once your claim is opened, you’ll be provided with a list of dates on which to file your claim. To avoid any disruption in payment, it’s vital you file as per the date provided for the duration of your unemployment, even if your initial file is still under review. If your claim is denied, you have 30 days from the mailing date of the determination statement to file an appeal. Full details of the appeals process will be included with the determination. Remember to continue to file your bi-weekly claims while the appeal is ongoing.