Collecting Unemployment Benefits in Arkansas

Learn the unemployment eligibility rules, benefit amounts, and more in Arkansas.

Did you recently lose your job in Arkansas? If so, you might be eligible for unemployment benefits, which are compensation available to employees who are temporarily out of work through no fault of their own. Although the basic rules for unemployment are similar across the board, the eligibility rules, prior earnings requirements, benefit amounts, and other details vary from state to state. Below you’ll find information on collecting unemployment in Arkansas.

Eligibility for Unemployment in Arkansas

In Arkansas, the Department of Workforce Services (DWS) handles unemployment benefits and determines eligibility on a case-by-case basis. Applicants must meet the following three eligibility requirements in order to collect unemployment benefits in Arkansas:

• You must have earned at least a minimum amount in wages before you were unemployed.

• You must be unemployed through no fault of your own, as defined by Arkansas law.

• You must be able and available to work, and you must be actively seeking employment.

Past Earnings

Virtually all states look at your recent work history and earnings during a one-year "base period" to determine your eligibility for unemployment. (For more information, see Nolo's article,  Unemployment Compensation: Understanding the Base Period). In Arkansas, as in most states, the base period is the earliest four of the five complete calendar quarters before you filed your benefits claim. For example, if you file your claim in August of 2015, the base period would be from April 1, 2014, through March 31, 2015.

To qualify for benefits in Arkansas, you must have earned wages in at least two quarters of the base period. In addition, during the entire base period, you must have earned at least 35 times your weekly benefit amount. (See Amount and Duration of Unemployment Benefits in Arkansas, below.)

Reasons for Unemployment

In Arkansas, as in other states, you must be out of work through no fault of your own to qualify for unemployment benefits.

  • Layoffs.  If you were laid off, lost your job in a reduction-in-force (RIF), or got "downsized" for economic reasons, you will meet this requirement.
  • Firing.  If you were fired because you lacked the skills to perform the job or simply weren't a good fit, you won’t necessarily be barred from receiving benefits. However, if you were fired for misconduct relating to your job, you may be disqualified from receiving benefits. In Arkansas, misconduct includes failing a drug test, willfully disregarding your employer’s interests, or willfully violating workplace policies regarding safety or harassment, for example. You may also be disqualified if you are fired for violating your employer’s attendance policies after repeated warnings.
  • Quitting.  If you quit your job, you will be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits unless you had good cause. In general, good cause means that your reason for leaving the position was job-related and was so compelling that you had no other choice than to leave. For example, if you left your job because of dangerous working conditions or sexual harassment that your employer refused to stop, you may be able to collect benefits. You may also remain eligible for benefits if you quit for certain compelling personal reasons, including your own disability or illness, to relocate with a spouse (depending on the circumstances), or to escape domestic violence.

Availability to Work

To keep collecting unemployment benefits, you must be able to work, available to work, and looking for employment. (For more information, see Nolo's article,  Collecting Unemployment: Are You Able, Available, and Actively Seeking Work?) If you’re offered a suitable position, you must accept it.

In Arkansas, suitable work is work similar to what you have done in the past, or other work you have the experience and training to perform, and which you can reasonably expect to get.

In Arkansas, you will be considered “available” for work only if you don’t have any restrictions preventing you from taking a job if one is offered. For example, you must be able to make transportation and child care arrangements.

You must make a reasonable effort to secure work, and you must register with DWS Employment Services. You will be told how many job contacts you must make each week. You will have to start reporting your job contacts once you've been receiving unemployment for a few months.

Amount and Duration of Unemployment Benefits in Arkansas

If you are eligible to receive unemployment, your weekly benefit rate is 1/26 of your earnings during the highest paid quarter of the base period. You can look up your weekly benefit amount in the DWS table,  Calculating Your Weekly Benefit Amount and Duration. The current minimum benefit is $81 per week, and the current maximum is $451 per week.

You may receive benefits for a maximum of 25 weeks. (In times of very high unemployment, additional weeks of benefits may be available.)

How to File a Claim for Unemployment Benefits in Arkansas

You may file your claim for unemployment benefits online or by phone. You can find online filing information, as well as regional telephone numbers for filing by phone, at the website of the  Department of Workforce Services.

After you file, you will receive a Notice of Monetary Determination, providing the wages reported by all of your employers during your base period and your potential weekly benefit amount.

How to Appeal a Denial of Unemployment Benefits in Arkansas

If your unemployment claim is denied, you have 20 days to appeal the decision to your local office of DWS or to the Arkansas Appeal Tribunal. A hearing officer will conduct the appeal, usually by phone. You will be able to present evidence and witness testimony. The hearing officer will then issue a decision.

If you disagree with the hearing officer’s decision, you may appeal it within 20 days to the Arkansas Board of Review. If you disagree with the Board’s decision, you may file an appeal in court.

For more information on the unemployment process, including current eligibility requirements and benefits amounts, visit the  DWS website.

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