Few people are eligible for unemployment overpayment exemptions in the event of a pandemic

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The federal government gave states guidelines to waive overpayments under pandemic unemployment programs earlier this year, but the I-Team found that of the thousands overpaid, only hundreds have. received a waiver.

According to data provided by the Department of Workforce Development, the state unemployment agency, 79,695 regular and pandemic UI claimants were overpaid for a total of $ 66.9 million (4 , $ 5 million considered fraudulent) during the year 2020. This represents 1.4% of the total of $ 4.8. billions of dollars in benefits paid to claimants.

This year, up to June, 41,928 claimants received an overpayment of $ 81.4 million ($ 8.4 million considered fraudulent), or 4.4% of the $ 1.8 billion paid.

But the ministry says only 4,125 claimants were told they might be eligible for an overpayment exemption if they received an overpayment under one of the programs created under the CARES Act. ‘last year. Only 415 actually received a waiver.

“It’s like someone is hitting you on the back of the head and you don’t know what’s going on,” said Susan Gault of Milwaukee.

Gault said he was told the DWD disqualified a week from his unemployment benefits in July of last year.

“I thought it was only a week,” she said. “Well, it wasn’t. It was $ 4,800.”

It was $ 4,800 that she had to pay back. Gault said she had not received a waiver notification. Since last year’s overpayment, she has almost repaid all of the $ 4,800.

“They took some of what I owe of the $ 4,800 of that $ 366, half, so what should I do?” said Gault.

Eligibility is a matter of fault, according to the DWD. A spokesperson wrote: “… a claimant may be at fault for an overpayment if they provide information that they knew, or reasonably should have known, to be inaccurate or incomplete on an initial or weekly claim.” A finding that the plaintiff was at fault does not necessarily mean that the plaintiff committed fraud or concealment. A claimant found to be at fault is required to repay overpaid benefits and is not eligible for an overpayment waiver under federal and state laws. “

“This whole waiver process that they’ve made incredibly complex is now, and it’s not obvious to any claimant,” said labor attorney Victor Forberger. “It’s obvious to me as a lawyer because I can read the language.”

Forberger represents claimants who have been denied benefits and are appealing the decision. He says that even if you made an honest mistake that resulted in an overpayment, it is your fault under the law.

“Your misunderstanding does not count as a fault. It does not count as an excuse for your faults,” he said. “In many cases, you have to understand the problem legally.”

According to the DWD website, federal benefit overpayments can be reversed if the collection is against fairness and good conscience, meaning that if you get the money back would rob you of income for basic needs, the ministry may waive recovery. But the question of who is responsible for the overpayment still applies.

“People don’t get rich on unemployment benefits,” Forberger said. “They spend that money right away as soon as they have it to cover their expenses.”

In June, Assembly Democrats introduced a bill that would prevent the department from collecting unemployment overpayments from the state fairly and in good conscience, but it has not budged since.

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