Unemployment Insurance: Alaska
Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.
Author: Gloria Ju
- Unemployment insurance is a nationwide program created to provide partial wage replacement to unemployed workers while they conduct an active search for work. Unemployment insurance is a joint federal-state program based on federal law and executed through state law. See Alaska Unemployment Compensation.
- Most employers in Alaska are subject to the Alaska Employment Security Act and must pay unemployment taxes. See Covered Employers.
- Unemployment insurance benefits are not available to all employees. See Ineligible Workers.
- Alaska unemployment benefits generally last between 16 and 26 weeks. Individuals may be entitled to an additional dependent allowance. See Benefits.
- Claimants must meet certain requirements in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits. See Eligibility for Benefits.
- Claimants may be denied benefits under specified circumstances. See Disqualification from Benefits.
- When a claim is filed, employers will be asked to verify certain information. Employers have a right to appeal a benefits decision. See Filing a Claim.
- Alaska has specific recordkeeping, reporting and posting requirements for employers. See Recordkeeping Requirements; Reporting Requirements; Posting Requirement.
- Employers may be penalized for making late contribution payments, failing to file timely contribution reports, nonpayment of contributions and other statutory violations. See Penalties and Interest.
Alaska Unemployment Compensation
Most employers in Alaska are subject to the state's Employment Security Act, which is administered by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Employment and Training Services (was the Division of Employment Security). Alaska's unemployment insurance program is funded by payroll tax contributions from the employer and employee. Employer contribution rates may vary based upon the employer's ratable payroll and experience factor. +Alaska Stat. § 23.20.165; +Alaska Stat. § 23.20.290.
Generally, an employer is any person, firm, corporation, LLC or other type of organization that employs one or more individuals for some portion of a day during the calendar year.
This includes, but is not limited to:
- Departments, agencies and political subdivisions of the state;
- Certain nonprofit organizations;
- Federally recognized tribes;
- Employers whose employees must be covered under Alaska's unemployment insurance law as a condition of approval of Alaska's unemployment insurance laws under federal law; and
- Employers who voluntarily elect coverage under Alaska's unemployment insurance program, even though not required to participate.
Certain employees are not eligible to receive unemployment benefits, including, but not limited to:
- Independent contractors;
- Domestic employees in a private home earning less than $1,000 in any calendar quarter;
- Minors under the age of 18 who deliver newspapers or advertisements;
- Individuals employed by their son, daughter or spouse;
- Full-time students (under age 21) employed by their parent or legal guardian, and children under age 18 employed by their mother or father;
- Insurance agents and solicitors, real estate brokers and salespersons or securities salespersons paid by commission (unless the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) applies);
- Certain agricultural laborers;
- Enrolled student nurses employed at a hospital or a nurses' training school, and interns employed at a hospital who have completed medical school (unless FUTA applies);
- Individuals on a fishing boat, with a normal crew of fewer than 10 individuals, whose pay is based on a share of the catch or of the proceeds from the sale of the catch, including temporary services related to emergency oil spill training and response activities;
- Ministers of a church or members of a religious order in the exercise of duties required by the order;
- Inmates of a prison or correctional institution performing service for a state hospital;
- Employee-students of a school, college or university and full-time students under the age of 22 earning credit in a program that combines academic instruction with work experience;
- Employee-patients of a hospital;
- Certain employees of the state; judicial officers; elected officials; members of the Alaska Army National Guard, Alaska Air National Guard or Alaska Naval Militia; employees serving on a temporary basis in case of emergency; and certain election officials and workers who earn less than $1,000 a year for such services;
- Church employees and employees of an organization that is operated primarily for religious purposes; and
- Officers of a federally recognized tribe in Alaska.
Alaska unemployment benefits generally last between 16 and 26 weeks. Individuals may be entitled to extended benefits during periods of high unemployment. Minimum and maximum weekly benefits are prescribed by law. Employees must have been paid sufficient wages in at least two of the calendar quarters of the employee's base period.
Additionally, individuals may be entitled to an additional dependent allowance for up to three eligible dependents.
Benefit amounts may be affected (partially or wholly) by:
- Wages earned above $50 (the benefit amount is reduced by 75 percent of the wages earned above $50);
- Pension, retirement, annuity or similar periodic payment;
- Severance or termination pay;
- Wages in lieu of termination notice;
- Vacation, sick leave and holiday pay; and
- Unemployment benefits received or applied for from another state or the federal government, if there is no reciprocal arrangement.
Eligibility for Benefits
In general, employees may collect unemployment benefits if they are totally or partially unemployed through no fault of their own and if they:
- Earned sufficient wages during their base period (+Alaska Stat. § 23.20.350(a));
- Filed a claim for benefits (+Alaska Stat. § 23.20.375);
- Satisfied a one-week waiting period (+Alaska Stat. § 23.20.375); and
- Are able to work and are available for suitable work (+Alaska Stat. § 23.20.378; +Alaska Stat. § 23.20.385).
Disqualification from Benefits
Under the Alaska Employment Security Act, individuals may be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits for any of the following reasons:
- Leaving work voluntarily without good cause;
- Termination for misconduct connected with the employee's work;
- Failure to apply for or accept suitable work;
- Termination for a felony or theft in connection with work;
- Work stoppage caused by a labor dispute; or
- Knowingly making a false statement or misrepresentation of a material fact or failing to report a material fact with the intent to obtain or increase benefits.
The Alaska Employment Security Act also disqualifies the following from receiving benefits:
- Athletes who are between seasons;
- Employees of an educational institution who are between academic years or terms, on vacation or on a holiday recess; and
- Illegal aliens.
Filing a Claim
When an individual files an initial claim for benefits, a Notice of Filing is sent to his or her most recent employer. The employer is asked to verify the reason given for the job separation and to provide additional information if the separation was due to resignation or termination.
Employers must respond to requests for information from the state within 48 hours of the request.
Employers can appeal a benefits determination or redetermination no later than 30 days after the determination or redetermination has been delivered or mailed to the employer's last address of record. +Alaska Stat. § 23.20.315; +Alaska Stat. § 23.20.340; +8 Alaska Admin. Code 85.151.
Employers must create employment records for each employee that contains specific information as prescribed by regulation. These records must be preserved for at least five years.
Quarterly Contribution Report
Employers are required to file a quarterly contribution report and wage schedule on or before the last day of the month following each calendar quarter, including specific information as required by law or regulation.
A report must be submitted via the internet if the report lists 100 or more individuals in covered employment in a calendar quarter or $1,000,000 or more in taxable wages in the current or preceding calendar year. However, an employer may be eligible for a waiver of this requirement if it lacks the means to send reports via the internet and it would be too costly to acquire the means to do so. Other employers may voluntarily use the internet to submit a report.
Notice of Work Stoppage Due to Labor Dispute
If an employer stops or curtails work because of a labor dispute, it must immediately report such work stoppage, in writing, to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The employer must furnish additional required information during or after the labor dispute upon request.
Notice of a Business Change or Acquisition
An employer that has a change in ownership, management or control, or that succeeds or acquires all or part of another employer's trade or business, must notify the Department of Labor and Workforce Development within 15 days of the change or acquisition.
Penalties and Interest
Employers are subject to interest on past due contributions and are subject to penalties for failure to file required reports and nonpayment of contributions. The interest and penalty amounts are prescribed by law. +Alaska Stat. § 23.20.185; +Alaska Stat. § 23.20.190; +Alaska Stat. § 23.20.195.
A person who willfully violates provisions of the law for which a penalty has not been prescribed faces a fine of not more than $200, imprisonment for not more than 60 days or both. +Alaska Stat. § 23.20.500.
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