A man wearing a face mask as a preventive measure walks past the New York State Department of Labor in Flushing, Borough of Queens, New York.
John Nacion | LightRocket | Getty Images
“It depends on the states,” said Andrew Stettner, senior researcher at the Century Foundation. “I hope [they] will seek to follow the idea that there are a lot of mistakes made with PUA. “
Most states forgo overpayments made under their traditional unemployment insurance programs. They usually write off debt when there is financial hardship for the recipient or because of an error on the part of an employer or unemployment agency, although the law varies from state to state.
But 10 states – Delaware, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia – do not have such laws for their standard programs, according to at the United States Department of Labor.
Workers’ advocates are particularly concerned about those states, which will also not extend protections to PUA beneficiaries. States, in their rush to get money to people quickly and implement new relief programs, accidentally sent PUA benefits to thousands of workers at the start of the pandemic.
Texas, for example, sent about 260,000 notices to PUA recipients between March 1 and October 1 in an attempt to recover $ 214 million in funds, the State Workforce Commission mentionned in autumn. Most people had made a mistake in their application.
“This is an issue currently under review,” said Cisco Gamez, a spokesperson for the Texas labor agency, of the overpayment waiver. “We are still going through [U.S. Labor Department] advice and hope to have a decision soon. “
New York intends to waive the PUA overpayments but has not come to a final decision, according to a spokesperson for the New York Department of Labor, who spoke with reservations about his track record.
Delaware has also not determined its course of action, according to Kenneth Briscoe, a spokesperson for the state Department of Labor.
Officials in the Kentucky governor’s office are hoping they can waive the overpayments, Amy Cubbage, general counsel to Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, told a press conference on Jan.8. Report. The state legislature should amend state law to do this, she said.
“At the start of the pandemic, we had some issues with erroneous payments made to claimants, and now they’ve been asked to pay them back,” Cubbage said. “As you know, the governor asked us to find a way to forgive these overpayments, because it was our mistake and not yours.”
Spokesmen for the remaining six states did not return a request for comment.
States can reduce current jobless benefits, garnish tax refunds, intercept lottery winnings, and sue individuals to recover funds. Some charge interest on unpaid balances.
Even states that apply the new PUA protections have wide latitude in interpreting when a person will or will not get relief, according to worker advocates. They may, for example, define “financial hardship” differently.