Reps. DelBene and Schrier Lead WA Delegation in Calling for Worker Protections for Overpaid Benefits
Today, Congresswomen Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Kim Schrier (WA-08) led the Washington state congressional delegation in asking House leadership to include protections in a future COVID-19 relief package to help unemployed residents in the state. In a letter, the delegation highlighted that families are being forced to pay back money they no longer have as a result of a new administrative requirement.
The delegation said, “This new requirement places a heavy administrative burden on states still struggling to help millions of workers get needed benefits on time and in full. It also puts workers at risk of having to repay benefits that they were entitled to just because they are confused by new administrative requests.”
The CARES Act, which was passed in March, created Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) for workers who are ineligible for traditional state Unemployment Insurance (UI) but still needed financial support because of the pandemic. These workers include contractors, temporary workers, and self-employed workers. Washington set up this new program and began paying benefits as quickly as possible.
Neither the CARES Act nor initial Department of Labor (DOL) guidance required individuals receiving PUA benefits to re-certify their eligibility weekly. Later, however, states were instructed by DOL to require weekly certifications and contact all current and former PUA recipients to tell them they must submit weekly certifications dating back to the beginning of the PUA program. If they did not do so, all the benefits they received would be treated as overpayments that must be repaid. If individuals do not understand and comply, states are required to recover the already-paid benefits.
The delegation added that by fixing this problem, “We can ensure Americans struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic are not faced with an unreasonable requirement to pay back funds they properly received and have already spent. We can also avoid diverting state resources that could be better used to ensure timely and accurate payment.”
DelBene is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over UI benefits. A full copy of the letter can be found here.