Last week, I filed An Act relative to waivers for non-fault overpayments (HD4461)
to streamline the process and standards that determine whether the collection of overpaid state and federal unemployment benefits accrued in 2020 and 2021 will be waived.
After hearing from constituents, we recognized a few common themes. First, the system is unduly cumbersome and hard to navigate, especially at a moment of significant financial strain. The appeal process lacks meaningful notice. The system is generally inaccessibility to most people. Further research revealed that the existing legal standards for waiving overpayments are completely insufficient to meet the unprecedented scale of pandemic claims and contravene the purpose of the program to support regular people who lost jobs during the economic closure.
Among other provisions, the legislation requires that DUA provide notice of and assistance with the waiver application process to claimants; provides scenarios where recovery of overpayments made through no fault of the worker would be against equity and good conscience; requires DUA to reconsider previously denied waiver applications under the new standards of this Act; and
prohibits DUA from improperly establishing overpayments based on redeterminations made beyond the one-year deadline provided in state law.
Throughout the pandemic, residents turned to unemployment benefits to keep afloat. Now, many workers are being ordered to repay tens of thousands of dollars in “overpaid” benefits, nearly all of which were awarded through no fault of the worker. Such overpayments were often the result of errors made as the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) had to quickly enact new federally funded benefit programs, respond to rapidly evolving federal guidance, and process a massive influx of unemployment claims.
For more context behind and information on this legislation, please refer to our press release here