The Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) is part of Iowa Workforce Development (IWD). Among other responsibilities, IWD is charged with administering the Iowa unemployment insurance system. This includes hearing appeals regarding unemployment claims.
The federal funding to IWD for administration of the unemployment system is based in part on the state’s unemployment rate. This means IWD’s funding, and staffing levels, are based on an unemployment rate under 3 percent, which was Iowa’s rate before the pandemic. Because of COVID-19 and the expansion of benefits Congress created in the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, IWD has received an unprecedented number of unemployment claims and now has a large number of appeals.
Due to the high number of appeals, IWD and our fellow Iowans need additional administrative law judges (ALJs) to help reduce the time it takes for IWD to issue an unemployment appeal decision. IWD Director Townsend and DWC Commissioner Cortese worked together to help address this important need. DWC will be loaning three deputy work comp commissioners ─ Jim Elliott, Heather Palmer, and Ben Humphrey ─ to the IWD Division of Unemployment Insurance Services to temporarily serve as unemployment ALJs.
The three deputies will begin their work as unemployment ALJs on May 18, 2020, through at least August 31, 2020. DWC will reassign the hearings over which the three deputies were scheduled to preside during this time period to other deputies. Likewise, other deputies will rule on motions filed in cases assigned to these three deputies in which the hearing is set for on or after September 1, 2020.
Commissioner Cortese may reassign some work comp cases that have been heard and fully submitted to these three deputies to other deputies for an arbitration decision. If this happens, Commissioner Cortese will issue an order under Iowa Code section 17A.15(2) reassigning the case. Parties and attorneys associated with a case on the Workers’ Compensation Electronic System (WCES) will receive an email notification from WCES, just like they would for any other filing, if the Commissioner files such an order in their case.
Toward the end of August, IWD will reassess the need for unemployment ALJs after August 31, 2020. IWD will determine whether all or some of the three deputies are still needed for unemployment appeals. DWC will notify stakeholders in the Iowa workers’ compensation system of that decision when it is finalized.
Parties and attorneys are able to monitor which deputy will preside over their hearings on the DWC hearing schedule. To view the schedule, click here.
For more information about how COVID-19 is impacting DWC operations, click here.
For information about unemployment insurance, click here.