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.

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 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 of returning to work the next school year, the method of salary payment has no impact. The fact that reasonable assurance exists would result in a denial of benefits.  In cases where an employee does not have reasonable assurance of returning to work, please contact our office to discuss the facts & circumstances. 

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, or Christmas).