Workforce West Virginia administers the state’s unemployment insurance program. The state’s program is the only one that does not have an online application system in place. According to a recent study on illegal benefit payments, this allows the state to have a low rate of unauthorized payouts. It may keep costs low for the state government, but it makes receiving benefits more time consuming than those in neighboring states. The difficulty is compounded by the relatively high unemployment rate in West Virginia. Armed with this knowledge, you should approach filing a benefits claim with certainty about how to proceed.
West Virginia Unemployment Eligibility Requirements
To be qualify for unemployment benefits in West Virginia, you must have earned sufficient wages from an employer covered by the state’s unemployment insurance laws (“covered employer”). You must have earned those wages during a one-year period prior to your filing a claim.
If you meet this monetary eligibility requirement, you must meet other requirements. You must:
- Be either partially or totally unemployed according to WV’s law.
- You are able and available to work full-time.
- You are partially or totally unemployed through no fault of your own
- Be legally authorized to work in the US
Eligibility Requirements Explained
You can and should file if you find yourself completely without income after a separation from work. However, you may also file a claim if your employer significantly reduces your work hours. Your employer will give you a “low earnings report” in this case. This report is evidence your employer didn’t have enough work for you during that week(s).
Able and Available
You must be physically and mentally able to work when you file a claim. You must also be available to accept suitable employment. “Suitable employment” is work you’ve been trained to do or have experience in that pays a salary similar to what you’ve earned before.
Examples of being “unavailable” are:
- Being incarcerated
- In school full-time and you can’t change your schedule
- Leaving the country (with some exceptions)
You must either be a US citizen or be authorized to work in the US as a resident alien. You must be able to prove your authorization. In rare instances, non-citizens on an H1-B Visa may file a claim.
If you made it through those four requirements without any issue, then you can move on with filing a claim and determining additional levels of eligibility.
Monetary Eligibility and the Base Period
To qualify for benefits, you must have earned at least $2,200 from a covered employer within a 12-month period called the base period. The base period is the first four of the last five quarters prior to your filing a claim.
In addition to the minimum $2,200 base period earnings, you must have earned wages in at least two base period quarters.
Notice of Monetary Eligibility
You’ll receive a letter informing you of the state’s calculations of your base period wages. The letter will inform you whether or not you meet the monetary requirements. If your notice tells you that you are eligible, this does not mean your claim is approved. The claims examiner must still determine whether you meet the other requirements.
Additionally, the notice will show how the examiner determined your wages and will include the potential amount of your benefits.
If the examiner determines that you are ineligible, you may request a redetermination if you find a mistake. Be prepared to provide evidence of the mistake using W-2 forms, etc.
Calculating Your Benefit Payment
The state also uses the base period wages to determine your benefit payments, your weekly benefit amount (WBA). You can use the online benefit rate table to estimate what you’ll receive.
The maximum you can receive each week is dependent on your base period wages. The state legislature sets the maximum WBA anyone can receive at $424. The minimum is $24.
The state limits the time you can receive benefits. The maximum is 26 weeks. The total amount of benefits you can receive during a benefit year is your WBA X 26.
During times of unusually high unemployment, the state or federal government may authorize funds for additional weeks of benefit payments. Extended benefits are not currently available.
How to File a Claim for Unemployment in WV
If you live in-state, you must file your claim in person at one of the Workforce West Virginia satellite offices. You will use this application form to file your claim. You should complete the form before going to the office to file.
If you currently live out of state, but need to file based on work performed in West Virginia, you may use the online form.
Filing the Initial Claim
- NOTE: You must have your social security card available when you file the initial unemployment claim.
- Report any employers whom you worked for within the past 18 months.
- List the dates you spent employed by each employer.
- Explain the reason your employment ended with each employer.
- Pick and memorize your four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN), which you will need in order to file for benefits and access your claims.
Once Workforce WV approves your claim, you should begin filing your continuing claim each week. The process is known as “filing a weekly claim” or “certifying your claim.” As the state requires you to maintain your eligibility while you receive benefits, filing weekly helps the state determine whether you are eligible.
You may file online at the WorkForce WV site or by telephone as long as you’re filing a timely claim (after your benefit week begins on Sunday). The telephone number to call is 1-800-379-1032.
You will have to answer questions when you certify. The questions will cover issues regarding your eligibility. The state will want to know whether:
- You are able and available to work
- You are looking for work
- You quit or started a new job
- You earned any wages or reportable income
You will have to answer additional questions regarding your status. You will have to report any wages or income if you have earned any. You must report the wages during the week you worked to earn them, not during the week you received payment.
Part-time Work and Benefits
You may file a claim if your employer reduces your work hours from full to part-time. You may also work part-time while receiving benefits. The state will deduct money from your WBA if you earn over a certain amount, $60. If you earn more than $60 during a benefit week, the state will deduct a dollar-for-dollar amount from your WBA.
You won’t receive a benefit payment for any week you earned more than your WBA.
If you fail to report earnings, the state may declare you ineligible for benefits. You will have to file a reopening claim after several months.
One of the most important unemployment insurance eligibility criteria is the requirement for claimants to actively search for employment on a weekly basis. Even if you initially qualify for unemployment benefits in West Virginia, those benefits may be revoked if you become noncompliant with the insurance requirements. Therefore, if you are not actively searching for work or you do not keep a record of your employment-related activities so as to allow the state to verify your compliance, then your initial UI claim will likely be denied, or, if you are already receiving UI benefits, then those will likely be taken away. There is a possibility that you will be asked to report in person to discuss your work search efforts, and your records will be especially important in such scenarios.
Records should include:
- The business’s name and address
- Name and title/position of any persons you spoke to
- The outcome of the meeting – successful/unsuccessful/follow up/etc.
Job Search Exemptions
Some may not have to meet the job search requirements. For example, workers with a specific return date to a previous employer may not have to report any efforts to find work.
Eligibility Review Programs
The state may provide job search assistance to individuals it determines may have some difficulty finding work. WorkForce WV will notify those chosen to participate in such programs. Participation is mandatory. If you ignore the notice or chose not to participate, you may lose your benefits.
Reasons for Denial of Benefits
The claims examiner may deny your claim if you don’t meet the monetary eligibility requirements. You may request a redetermination of your base period wages.
The examiner may also deny benefits if you don’t meet non-monetary requirements. When filing an initial claim, the separation issues are the most common non-monetary reason for a denial of benefits.
Your actions or decisions cannot be the cause of your separation from work. You can’t be at fault for your job loss and still receive benefits.
If you quit without a good cause connected to your work, the examiner may deny your claim. If your employer discharges you for misconduct connected to your work, the examiner may deny the claim.
You may quit your job for what you believe to be a “good cause,” like going back to school, finding adequate child care, or simply not getting along with your boss. The examiner is not likely to see any of these reasons as being a good cause connected to work. Some are more “connected to the work” than others. However, they all amount to quitting for personal reasons.
Often, a “good cause connected to work” is quitting when your employer did something or failed to do something to cause you to quit. Such cases may include:
- Being forced to work in unsafe conditions
- Subject to harassment on the job
- Finding a new job with better pay
In most instances, you must be able to show you made a good faith effort to work out any issues with your employer before quitting. You will have to be able to show the conditions that caused you to leave in fact existed.
Your employer may discharge you for a variety of reasons, especially if you are employed “at-will.” However, the examiner may not consider that reason to be misconduct. “Misconduct” is generally conduct that shows a disregard for your employer’s interests. Fighting with another employee at work is a clear example of misconduct.
If your employer fires you for an inability to perform your duties, it may not be misconduct. An examiner may not consider a one-time error in judgement to be misconduct.
The examiner will seek a response from your former employer regarding your separation from work. The examiner may find your former employer’s description of your separation to be more credible. You may have to appeal the denial of benefits.
If you fail to perform as required by the rules and regulations of unemployment law, WorkForce WV may deny a continuing claim. Failing to respond to a request or failing to report wages are among the things that can trigger a denial.
What Happens When the State Denies Unemployment
If the state denies your claim, you will receive a Deputy’s Decision. The decision will notify you of the reasons the examiner denied your claim. It will also give you information on how to file an appeal to the denial of benefits.
You may appeal any decision or determination the state makes regarding your benefits. You will have 8 calendar days in which to file the appeal. Your appeal must be in writing. You can use a form or write your own letter.
To learn more about the appeals process, read our pages on filing an unemployment appeal in West Virginia.
A detailed explanation of your rights and duties under West Virginia’s unemployment compensation laws
General WV UC Telephone Contact: 1-800-252-JOBS (5627)
Email: [email protected]
WorkForce WV Job Search Database