Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development, speaks at a press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa, on Thursday, April 30, 2020. (Photo Credit: Charlie Niebergall/Associated Press)

DES MOINES, Iowa – The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday between Sunday, April 19, and Saturday, April 25, 28,827 people filed an initial unemployment insurance claim in Iowa. Of that number, 27,115 initial claims were by individuals who work and live in Iowa, and 1,712 claims by individuals who work in Iowa but live out of state. 

Last week, there were 170,990 continuing unemployment insurance claims. Since Gov. Kim Reynolds’ initial public health emergency declaration on March 17 that closed businesses considered “non-essential,” 264,197 initial unemployment claims were filed. 

There was a slight uptick (915) in initial unemployment claims last week compared to the previous week; following two weeks of a decline. The initial drop was a sign that some businesses were retaining some employees with help from the Paycheck Protection Program, Iowa’s Small Business Grant program, as well as Reynolds not ordering additional businesses closed. 

A total of $51,408,623.02 in unemployment insurance benefits were paid to claimants for the same week, up $3.3 million from the previous week.

The following industries had the most claims: 

  • Manufacturing (7,402)
  • Health Care & Social Assistance (4,190)
  • Industry Not Available – Self-employed, Independent Contractors, etc. (4,182)
  • Retail Trade (2,472)
  • Accommodation & Food Services (2,130)

A total of $102,714,000 was paid to 153,951 Iowans in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits, a drop from the past week with 99,606 fewer Iowans receiving that benefit. Since April 4, 2020, a total of $327,747,600 in benefits has been paid.

Iowa last week was in its second week paying Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) weekly benefits, which are unemployment benefits paid to the self-employed. A total of $4,810,592.73 in PUA benefits were paid to 13,344 Iowans with 192 more Iowans receiving that benefit than the previous week.

Total unemployment benefits paid to Iowa’s workforce surpassed $158.9 million last week. 

Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development, warned employees could not quit and remain on benefits if their workplace opens up.

“We want to remind all individuals that if you are recalled to work and choose not to return, you may lose eligibility for unemployment benefits in addition to losing your job,” she said during Gov. Kim Reynolds’ press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, Iowa.

However, Townsend said there are COVID-19 related exceptions. 

Those who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms are still eligible for benefits. Those who have a member of their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or they are caring for an individual in their household with COVID-19 are still eligible. If an employee’s health care provider has advised them to self-quarantine because they are in a higher risk category, they are eligible. Also eligible are those who lack necessary childcare related to COVID-19, cannot reach their place of employment because of the outbreak or had COVID-19 have recovered, but it caused complications, rendering them objectively unable to perform the essential functions of their job.

“We strongly encourage all Iowans to talk with their employers prior to their return to work to understand the measures they are taking to ensure the safety of their employees and customers. We do have a provision in our unemployment code that allows an individual to quit a job if they feel that their workplaces are unsafe,” Townsend said.

“However, it takes more than a mere assertion by the employee to establish this to be true. If an employer establishes that they have taken the necessary steps, such as following industry standards established by OSHA guidelines, providing extra wash stations, additional sanitation areas, providing PPE such as mask or gloves, and following appropriate social distancing recommendations, it may be difficult to establish a good faith basis to quit due to safety concerns,” she added.

Iowans can visit www.IowaWorkorceDevelopment.gov to file their initial and weekly unemployment insurance claim. Employers or claimants with questions can email IWD at [email protected] Individuals can call at 1-866-239-0843. IWD warns wait times can be lengthy. They state their website contains videos, webinars, FAQs, and other forms of assistance for all of the different types of claims and programs, such as the most updated information on the CARES Act benefits and payments.

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