Legal Articles

Attorney Daniel J. JohnstonThe CARES Act and Temporary Unemployment Benefits in Iowa


Daniel Johnston | Hopkins & Huebner, P.C. | Des Moines Office

As declared in its employment security law, Iowa recognizes that “[e]conomic insecurity due to unemployment is a serious menace to the health, morals, and welfare of the people of this state,” and that the burdens of unemployment “fall with crushing force upon the unemployed worker and the worker’s family.”  To achieve social security in protection against the economic hazard of unemployment, Iowa requires employers to pay taxes for the state’s unemployment insurance program.  This program exists to provide benefits to persons who become unemployed through no fault of their own.  As a general matter, to qualify for benefits, such persons must be able to work, available to work, and, with some narrow exceptions, actively searching for work.
One of the ways a worker may faultlessly lose their job is through a layoff.  Iowa law defines a layoff as “a suspension from pay status initiated by the employer without prejudice to the worker for such reasons as: lack of orders, model changeover, termination of seasonal or temporary employment, inventory-taking, introduction of laborsaving devices, plant breakdown, shortage of materials; including temporarily furloughed employees and employees placed on unpaid vacations.”  While some instances of job loss are more or less permanent, others may be on a strictly temporary basis as noted in this definition—layoffs include temporarily furloughed employees. 
Unemployment Benefits and the Work-Search Requirement
Iowa law provides partial unemployment benefits for persons who become temporarily unemployed.  A person can be considered temporarily unemployed for a period of no longer than four consecutive weeks if he or she has become unemployed because of “a plant shutdown, vacation, inventory, lack of work, or emergency from the individual’s regular job or trade in which the individual worked full-time and will again work full-time, if the individual’s employment, although temporarily suspended, has not been terminated.”
This is in contrast to more permanent types of job loss during which an employee may be entitled to up to twenty-six weeks (potentially expanded under new federal law) of benefits.  And unlike regular unemployment, the temporarily-unemployed worker may not need to be actively searching for other work—Iowa Workforce Development may waive the work-search requirement if the worker is only temporarily unemployed and he or she expects to be recalled by their former employer within a reasonable time.  The work-search requirement may also be waived for approved training.  As of March 30, 2020, Iowa Workforce development no longer requires employees who are or may become laid off, or who are unable to work because of COVID-19 related reasons, to use all of their paid leave prior to being eligible for unemployment benefits.
Man holding briefcase and newspaperThe CARES Act and Unemployment Assistance
The recently-enacted CARES Act provides for “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” to people who are otherwise ineligible for regular unemployment insurance who can also certify that they are able to work but are unemployed for certain specified COVID–19–related reasons.  This can apply to people who are both unemployed and partially unemployed. 
If you have become unemployed, even on a temporary basis, you may qualify for unemployment benefits for your period of unemployment.  You can visit the Iowa Workforce Development webpage for more information about unemployment benefits or to file a claim: