Posted by Gregory M. Rada | June 16, 2023 | Firm News
During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of Americans lost their jobs. In just a few short months, the federal government stood up a new unemployment insurance program covering millions of people who had not previously been eligible for unemployment insurance. The new program was called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA. The new program covered gig workers, people who owned their own companies, and people who could not work because their children were having to go to school online, among others. Our friends at Washington Employment Benefits Advocates dive into the details below.
Unemployment insurance is unusual. It is federally funded, but each state has its own agency that administers the program. So each state was forced to try to quickly implement a completely new and very large program paying unemployment insurance benefits to millions of people who had not previously been eligible. Not surprisingly, there were many problems. Hundreds of millions of dollars were stolen in fraudulent claims.
Also, the eligibility guidelines were not very clear. So hundreds of thousands of people received benefits and they were later told they should not have received those benefits and they were issued “Overpayment Notices.” If this happened to you, you are not alone.
If you have received an overpayment notice you can fight it. You have at least two ways to fight. You can argue that you were in fact eligible to receive benefits, and you can also ask for an Overpayment Waiver. The federal government has directed states to create programs for evaluating claims for waivers of pandemic era benefits.
When the agency in your state that administers unemployment insurance benefits makes a decision that negatively impacts you, like they say you are required to pay back benefits you have already received, you have a right to appeal that decision. When you file the appeal, you will typically have a hearing in front of a state administrative law judge. Often these hearings are conducted by telephone.
If you have been receiving overpayment notices in the mail, you may want to log into the portal you were using for filing your weekly claims for benefits. You may now have a new option for requesting a waiver of the overpayment that was not previously available as your state starts to implement the federal government’s requirement that the states consider overpayment waiver requests.
If you need to contest an overpayment of unemployment insurance benefits, you may want to consider hiring an attorney. There are law firms that focus exclusively on unemployment insurance issues. You’ll want to look for a law firm or a legal services provider that has experience working on unemployment insurance claims.
While some states try to make the process for appealing decisions simple and straightforward, there are many technical details that are difficult to navigate. An unemployment lawyer who is experienced in this area can help you figure out the best way to present your case. But review your case with an attorney before agreeing to pay back thousands of dollars in benefits for which you may well have been eligible.