LANSING — More Michigan workers who got pandemic unemployment benefits could be qualified for waivers for receiving overpayments where they were not at fault.
Waivers stop the state from recovering the overpayment via collection. The state says waivers will not be applied to claims where it determines fraud is involved.
Governor Whitmer announced on Monday that the U.S. Department of Labor granted her request on behalf of the state of Michigan to expand the eligibility for waivers for Michigan workers who received Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
The labor department has now updated its blanket waiver criteria to include five scenarios in which payments were made to workers who didn’t qualify for those payments:
- People who responded “no” to being able and available for work and the state still issued payment for PUA or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
- Someone was eligible for payment, but the state issued payment at a higher weekly benefit amount.
- Someone responded “no” to being unemployed, partially unemployed or unable or unavailable to work due to the approved coronavirus-related reasons, and the state paid PUA. When asked to self-certify, the person did not respond or confirmed that none of the approved coronavirus-related reasons applied and the state issued payment, resulting in overpayment for the week.
- Someone submitted required proof of earnings used to calculate PUA weekly benefits and the state incorrectly processed the calculation, resulting in a higher weekly benefit amount.
- Someone submitted proof of self-employment earnings to establish eligibility for the Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation Program and the state incorrectly processed the information, resulting in overpayment.
The state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) is reviewing how the categories would apply to claims in Michigan and determining how quickly the waivers could be issued. The UIA will make waiver determinations and notify claimants by letter and through their unemployments claim accounts of any change in the status of their cases.
“Michiganders should not be penalized for doing what was right at the time they applied for federal pandemic benefits,” Whitmer said. “Coupled with the waivers we applied earlier, we are looking to help Michiganders who needed unemployment benefits to pay their bills, keep food on the table and continue supporting small businesses.”
The expansion of criteria for waivers comes after the UIA issued approximately 350,000 waivers last summer to ensure that Michiganders who received overpayments through no fault of their own were not required to repay such assistance they received during the pandemic to the federal government.
With changing federal guidance about unemployment insurance, Michigan was among numerous states that made mistakes in identifying workers who are not eligible for benefits.
Michigan sought the legal authority from the Department of Labor and Congress to issue waivers so that eligible Michiganders are not negatively affected for following the established rules when they applied.