Dave Bondy, from Mid-Michigan NOW has been told by the State Unemployment Insurance Agency he has to pay back $23,000 in benefits.
An audit has found that in processing 5.4 million unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic, shortcomings in the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency Office caused $3.9 billion in overpayments.
The agency’s inaction and mishandling of procedures to ensure out-of-work Michigan residents could receive financial support during the pandemic led to 648,100 Michigan residents receiving letters this summer saying that they would have to reapply for eligibility, according to the audit.
Of those claimants, 347,437 who had previously been marked as eligible for benefits were found ineligible for benefits.
The state will likely not recoup that money, according to the audit, since the fault lies solely on the agency and not the claimants.
This is contrary to a statement made by the Unemployment Insurance Agency agency in July, where they said, claimants who are no longer eligible to receive Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits that overpayments will be waived.
In June, claimants were asked to requalify for PUA by providing the agency with the necessary information to remain eligible for the federal program.
Four PUA COVID-19 eligibility reasons that were included at the beginning of the pandemic were later found by the U.S. Department of Labor to be non-qualifying. Under federal law, UIA had to re-evaluate PUA eligibility for individuals who selected one of the non-qualifying reasons.
After the notifications were issued, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer supported Michigan’s use of waivers from the Department of Labor, stressing that, “No one who followed the rules and received benefits through no fault of their own should have to pay back money to the federal government.”
Of the roughly 690,000 claimants that were asked to requalify, about 241,000 responded to the UIA’s request. Waivers will be granted to the initial group of approximately 350,000 non-responses, many of whom may no longer be collecting benefits.
“For those who have responded, we’re reviewing their cases to determine if they have an eligible COVID-19 related reason and if they may continue to receive benefits,” said Acting UIA Director Liza Estlund Olson.
“For those who did not respond, we want to assure them that claimants who are no longer eligible won’t have to return the money they received when, through no fault of their own, they chose one of the four non-eligible reasons.”
The agency said that the affected claimants will receive notification in their MiWAM account, or by U.S. mail.
Keep up with more news here at the East County Gazette.