DaMoose: Unemployed Shouldn’t Have To Reimburse For UIA Errors
August 3, 2021
Out-of-work Michiganders who were issued unemployment benefits in error, due to a mistake by the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA), would not have to pay that back under legislation being introduced by Rep. John DaMoose (R-Harbor Springs).
HB 5265, expected to be read into the House in August, would keep recipients from having to reimburse the UIA for benefits issued due to agency error.
“If you wonder whether this applies to you, if you qualify for unemployment, the only way you know is by asking the state through an application,” DaMoose said. “And once the state says, ‘Yes, this does apply to you,’ and they send you money on this, in my mind it’s a done deal. And if the state has made a mistake, it’s on the state. The money is gone. They can’t go back after people.”
Money erroneously paid should simply “count as one of the casualties of the COVID pandemic,” he said.
Some 648,000 recipients are estimated to have received benefits from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program in error, according to DaMoose. He’s heard amounts ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on how long the recipient received unemployment.
UIA has sent letters to those claimants to reassess whether they met the qualifying criteria.
DaMoose said his bill would not apply to those who took benefits fraudulently. It is for those who thought they had a legitimate claim.
“These are good people who thought they were following the rules, who applied and assumed that once the state said ‘yes, this does apply to you,’ and they started sending money, assumed they did the right thing,” DaMoose said.
Some constituents have received letters from UIA asking for reimbursement. One of DaMoose’s constituents was asked to repay $6,000.
“He’s in a panic. He doesn’t even know where he is going to find that,” DaMoose said.
Another constituent took a second job to start repaying the state. Then the UIA concluded its reimbursement determination was in error. That constituent not only doesn’t have to pay the money back, the UIA is returning the money already reimbursed to it. This is “such a mess,” DaMoose said.
“I’m not going after, and I want to make this clear, the people who are working at the unemployment agency, for UIA. I know a lot of people in my party are going after them. I know these people are working hard and they were hit with something that overwhelmed the system. The rules were changing quickly last year, if you remember,” DaMoose said.
The PUA program was provided during the pandemic to give benefits to self-employed workers, gig workers and part-time workers.
Current law prohibits UIA from recovering benefits improperly paid due to administrative or clerical errors. Damoose’s bill would expand the prohibition to include benefits resulting from any error by the UIA between March 12, 2020 and July 1, 2021.