Since the COVID pandemic started, the number of new unemployment claims has risen exponentially. Admittedly, the tide seems to be turning (as SF Gate reports, unemployment claims in Montana the week ending May 2 were down by 72% on the week before) but given that number is still 459% higher than the same time last year, there’s little cause to celebrate just yet. While unemployment insurance benefits (UI) can’t replace lost earnings entirely, they can be a vital stopgap for those who’ve lost their job as a result of the crisis. If you’re among those currently out of work, here’s how to file for unemployment in Montana.
What are the Eligibility Requirements for UI in Montana?
As Work Place Fairness outlines, eligibility for UI in Montana is typically conditional on you having been made unemployed through no fault of your own, having earned sufficient wages over the first 4 of the last 5 completed quarters, and being able and available to work. In addition, you must be legally authorized to work in the US, actively seeking new employment, and not be in receipt of UI from another state. However, in response to the COVID crisis, eligibility has been opened up to those that wouldn’t normally qualify, including gig workers, contractors, and the self-employed, and those who are unable or unavailable to work due to the pandemic.
As the Montana Department of Labor and Industry outlines, you may still be eligible to claim benefits if any of the following COVID-19 situations apply:
- Your employer offers a temporary, unpaid leave of absence to avoid more permanent cost-cutting measures such as redundancies
- You have been directed to self-isolate or quarantine
- Your employer shuts down operations
- Your employer reduces your hours
- You are in mandatory quarantine because of a medically confirmed suspicion of having COVID-19
- You have been affected by school closures
How Can I File for Unemployment in Montana?
Applications for UI in Montana should be filed online. If this is the first time you have filed for unemployment, you will first need to create an account. If you have used the website for a previous unemployment claim, you will be prompted for the Security Word you created when you first registered to re-activate your existing account. If you are unable to file online, you can call the Department of Labor’s Claims Processing Center on (406) 444-2545, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m.- 4:00 p.m.
What Information Will Be Required?
Whether you file your application online or by phone, be prepared to provide the following:
- Mailing address and best contact number
- ID (this can be a drivers license or state ID)
- Bank account information if you want to be paid by direct deposit
- Confirmation of any holiday or severance pay received or due
- Employment history to cover the last eighteen months
- Pension information, if applicable
- The name and local number of your union hall, if you are a union member
- Your return to work date, if you have been temporarily laid off
- You Alien ID number if you are not a US citizen
- If you have served in the military in the last 18 months or are a former federal employee, further information may be requested.
Once you’ve logged your initial claim, you’ll need to start filing a weekly claim for payment to confirm your employment situation remains unchanged. The benefit week runs Sunday to midnight the following Saturday. Payment requests for the previous week should be made online between 12:01 a.m. Sunday and 11:59 p.m. the following Saturday.
How Much Will I Get in Unemployment?
In Montana, the maximum amount of unemployment you can receive is $487 per week; the minimum you can receive is $139 per week. Your actual entitlement will be calculated based on your previous earnings. If you’d like to get an advance indication of how much you’re likely to receive, plug in your data at the state’s Benefit Estimator. As well as the amount allowed by the state, you’ll also be entitled to a weekly $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payment until the end of July. You don’t need to apply for the supplementary payment separately to your UI claim: the Department of Labor will simply add it to your weekly benefit amount.
How Long Can I Claim Unemployment in Missouri?
Under normal circumstances, unemployment benefits in Montana can be claimed for up to a maximum of 28 weeks in any one calendar year. However, since the introduction of the CARES Act on March 27, this has now been extended up to a maximum of 39 weeks, valid until the end of July 2020.
I’ve Filed My Claim. What Now?
Once the Department of Labor receives your claim, they’ll begin reviewing your eligibility. Additional information may be requested, in which case try and provide it as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary delays. Remember to continue claiming your payments weekly while the review is ongoing.
Within 3 weeks, the department will send you a Notice of Determination to confirm if your claim has been accepted. If it is, payment will follow shortly by either pre-loaded debit card or direct bank transfer, depending on the preference stated during your application.
If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision within 10 days of receiving the notice. You can make your appeal online at ui4u.mt.gov, by mail, fax, or phone. As part of the appeal, you will be asked to explain why you disagree with the determination. Any evidence you have to support your appeal should be provided. A second determination will then be made. If you continue to disagree with the decision, you have the right to request a telephone appeal hearing with The Office of Administrative Hearings. After the hearing is conducted, a third determination will be sent to you. Any appeals made after the initial hearing will need first to be made to the Board of Labor Appeals (BOLA), then to the District Court, and finally to the Montana Supreme Court.
Continue to verify your weekly payments while the appeal is reviewed.