Unemployment Benefits

Read this in: Spanish / Español
Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid


If you lose your job, you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. 

To be eligible for unemployment benefits you must: 1) Be authorized to work in the United States; 2) Have worked and earned enough money in the last 18 months; 3) Be totally or partially unemployed; 4) Be able and available for work; and 5) Be actively seeking work. 

You can file for unemployment benefits: 

-In-person at any Iowa Workforce Development office.  You can see a list of offices here:  https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/locations 


First Three Stages of an Unemployment Benefits Case: 

1. Fact-finding interview:  After you file your claim, you will have a phone interview with a representative of Iowa Workforce Development who will decide if you are eligible for benefits.  If this decision denies benefits, you have 10 days to appeal and request an Administrative Law Judge Hearing.  It is very important to appeal by the deadline or you may lose your chance to fight the decision. 

2. Administrative Law Judge Hearing:  This is a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  It can be by phone or in-person.  Iowa Legal Aid may be able to represent you at the ALJ hearing – CALL IOWA LEGAL AID TO ASK FOR HELP WITH THE HEARING.  You can give evidence to show why you think you are eligible for benefits.  You can testify, bring witnesses to testify on your behalf, and submit written evidence.  If the judge’s decision denies you benefits, you have 15 days to appeal and request review before the Employment Appeal Board. 

3. Employment Appeal Board Review:  Three board members review the entire record in your case to decide if they think the judge made the right decision.  You can submit an argument in writing to support your case at this stage, but it is not a new hearing and it is hard to put in any new evidence.  Iowa Legal Aid may be able to help with writing an argument for you. 

Even if you are fired, you may still be eligible for unemployment.  Your employer will have the burden to prove that you were fired for “misconduct.” 


If you work for a staffing agency and you are let go from the job you were placed at or the job ends, it is important that you contact the staffing agency within three days to ask if they have any other work available for you.  If you do not do this, you might not be able to get benefits. 


Keep doing your work searches and reporting those to Iowa Workforce Development even if your case is being appealed.  Keep Workforce updated with your current address and phone number at all times.  Workforce may ask you to attend a class or appointment about your work abilities.  You should attend.  If you have any questions, call Iowa Legal Aid. 

Last Review and Update: Oct 25, 2022
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