Understanding the intricate components of unemployment claims administration is not an easy task.

Questions continually arise that pertain to eligibility, charges and reasonable assurance, just to name a few. It could be costly to your school district to not understand the basic questions that are commonly asked.

Q.    How do claimants become eligible for unemployment benefits?

A.     Claimants must:

  • Have a qualifying amount of wages in covered employment in the base period.
  • Be able, available, and actively seeking work during each week for which a claim is filed.
  • Have a qualifying separation from their last employer or be out of work through no fault of their own.

The financial requirement must be met before a ruling is made on the able, available, and actively seeking work and separation issues.

Q.   How does my school become liable for the charges?

A.   Your school district is potentially chargeable when a claimant has base period wages earned in your district’s employ. Base period employer accounts are charged proportionally when benefits are paid to a claimant.

Q.   How can my district obtain a relief from charges?

A.   Relief from charges can be obtained by your district, as the base period employer, if the claimant works part-time for your district, is separated from the full-time position, and continues working for the district part-time with a 10% or less reduction in hours or wages.

Q.    One of the questions often asked concerns the eligibility for unemployment benefits of employees who work for nine months, but are paid over a 12-month period. Would such individuals be able to collect benefits during the summer months?

A.   No. If an employee has reasonable assurance to return the next school year, the method of salary payment has no impact. The issue of reasonable assurance would result in a denial of benefits.      

Yes. If an employee does not have reasonable assurance, but is being paid either regular paychecks over the summer or a lump sum payment in lieu of summer checks, the employee would be eligible for unemployment benefits for the summer months.

Q.   What about employees such as bus drivers, aides and cafeteria workers?

A.    If your employees have been given reasonable assurance that their positions will remain open for them, they are not considered separated and should not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

It follows that school administrators should be sure to issue reasonable assurance notices to those employees who will be returning at the end of the summer break. A sample letter can be found in the forms library of the Montana Education Law Reporter when logged on to the MTSBA website.

Q.   Are school employees eligible for unemployment benefits over holiday breaks?

A.    Employees of educational institutions are not permitted to collect unemployment benefits for any week that commences during an established vacation period or holiday break when there is a contract or reasonable assurance of employment following the vacation period (such as summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas).