by Scott McClallen
The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) granted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request to expand the eligibility for waivers for Michiganders who wrongly received Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) because of the state jobless agency’s mistake.
“Michiganders should not be penalized for doing what was right at the time they applied for federal pandemic benefits,” Whitmer said in a statement. “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. I look forward to working with our legislative partners to continue putting Michiganders first and keeping more money in their pockets.”
The USDOL updated its waiver guidance to approve five new scenarios for consideration of a waiver may apply blanket waivers for recovery of overpayments:
- An individual responded “no” to be able and available for work, and the state issued payment for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation without adjudicating the eligibility issue.
- An individual was eligible for payment, and the state issued payment at a higher rate Weekly Benefit Amount under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.
- The individual responded “no” to being unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to the approved coronavirus-related reasons, and the state paid Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. When asked to self-certify, the individual didn’t respond or confirm that none of the approved coronavirus-related reasons applied. The state issued payment, resulting in overpayment for the week.
- The individual submitted required proof of earnings used to calculate Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Weekly Benefit Amount, and the state incorrectly processed the calculation resulting in a higher weekly benefit amount under the PUA program.
- The individual submitted proof of self-employment earnings to establish eligibility for Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation Program and the state incorrectly processed the information, resulting in overpayment.
The new guidance follows Whitmer meeting with USDOL Secretary Marty Walsh.
“I appreciate Governor Whitmer sharing the challenges Michiganders were facing and the need for broader overpayment waiver flexibility,” Walsh said. “We’re hopeful the guidance issued by DOL today will enable states like Michigan to prevent any further undue hardship for claimants.”
The UIA is reviewing how the categories would apply to Michigan claims.
“This is an important next step in the UIA’s proactive efforts to resolve outstanding issues for any Michigan claimant now being asked to repay benefits through no fault of their own,” UIA Director Julia Dale said in a statement. “We appreciate the USDOL’s swift action to provide much needed relief through expanded waivers for Michigan workers who received federal pandemic unemployment benefits.”
Despite being warned twice, Michigan’s jobless agency approved incorrect benefits guidance – wrongly approving ineligible Michiganders for benefits before the agency billed them for those same benefits.
The UIA asked nearly 700,000 Michiganders to recertify for benefits. In July, UIA issued 350,000 waivers to people whom it overpaid.
The UIA is evaluating how many other claims might qualify for waivers under the USDOL guidance announced today. As UIA makes waiver determinations, they will notify claimants by letter and through their MIWAM accounts of any change in the status of their cases.
“We ask that claimants remain patient and reply to any correspondence from UIA in a timely manner so we can get through these cases and provide relief to those facing repayment,” Dale said.
Waivers won’t be applied to claims the UIA determines are fraudulent.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.