LANSING, Mich. — Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced today that the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) granted her request on behalf of the state of Michigan to expand the eligibility for waivers for Michigan workers who received Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
“Michiganders should not be penalized for doing what was right at the time they applied for federal pandemic benefits,” said Governor Whitmer. “Coupled with the waivers we applied earlier, we are looking to help Michiganders who needed unemployment benefits to pay their bills, keep food on the table, and continue supporting small businesses. I look forward to working with our legislative partners to continue putting Michiganders first and keeping more money in their pockets.”
The new guidance follows Governor Whitmer’s meeting with USDOL Secretary Marty Walsh to discuss the need for waivers, and UIA Director Julia Dale’s meeting with USDOL Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Richard Cesar, to advocate for waivers for Michigan’s workers. This is in addition to Whitmer’s continued efforts to push leaders in Congress to provide a solution for Michigan workers affected by the pandemic.
“I appreciate Governor Whitmer sharing the challenges Michiganders were facing and the need for broader overpayment waiver flexibility,” said U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. “We’re hopeful the guidance issued by DOL today will enable states like Michigan to prevent any further undue hardship for claimants.”
The USDOL’s Employment and Training Administration updated its waiver guidance to approve five new scenarios under which states who have adopted the federal provisions for consideration of a waiver may apply blanket waivers for recovery of overpayments:
- An individual responded “no” to being able and available for work and the state issued payment for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation without adjudicating the eligibility issue.
- An individual was eligible for payment and the state issued payment at a higher rate Weekly Benefit Amount under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.
- The individual responded “no” to being unemployed, partially unemployed or unable or unavailable to work due to the approved coronavirus-related reasons, and the state paid Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. When asked to self-certify, the individual did not respond or confirmed that none of the approved coronavirus-related reasons applied and the state issued payment, resulting in overpayment for the week.
- The individual submitted required proof of earnings used to calculate Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Weekly Benefit Amount and the state incorrectly processed the calculation resulting in a higher weekly benefit amount under the PUA program.
- The individual submitted proof of self-employment earnings to establish eligibility for Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation Program and the state incorrectly processed the information, resulting in overpayment.
UIA is reviewing how the categories would apply to claims in Michigan and determining how quickly the waivers could be issued.
“This is an important next step in the UIA’s proactive efforts to resolve outstanding issues for any Michigan claimant now being asked to repay benefits through no fault of their own,” UIA Director Julia Dale said. “We appreciate the USDOL’s swift action to provide much needed relief through expanded waivers for Michigan workers who received federal pandemic unemployment benefits.”
In July, UIA issued approximately 350,000 waivers to ensure that Michiganders who received overpayments through no fault of their own were not required to repay such assistance they received during the pandemic to the federal government. The UIA is evaluating how many other claims might qualify for waivers under the USDOL guidance announced today.
As UIA makes waiver determinations, they will notify claimants by letter and through their MIWAM accounts of any change in the status of their cases.
“We ask that claimants remain patient and reply to any correspondence from UIA in a timely manner so we can get through these cases and provide relief to those facing repayment,” Dale said.
Michigan was among numerous states that were following often changing federal legal guidance, but which subsequently identified workers who are not eligible for benefits. Michigan was at the forefront of seeking the legal authority from DOL and Congress to issue waivers so that eligible Michiganders are not negatively affected for following the established rules when they applied.
As part of its proactive approach to the waivers issue, UIA endorsed a National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA) letter sent to Congressional leaders that encourages Congress to pass legislation that allows states to waive non-fraudulent pandemic related unemployment compensation overpayments. Director Dale also has held numerous conversations with DOL on the regional and national level to seek guidance on issuing waivers to workers.
Waivers will not be applied to claims where UIA determines fraud is involved. UIA will continue to pursue efforts to reclaim fraudulent payouts by working with the Unemployment Insurance Fraud Response Team established by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in December and through collaborations with local law enforcement agencies.