MICHIGAN, USA — The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) announced Wednesday that they are waiving $431 million in overpayments to over 55,000 claimants statewide.
The new waivers are in addition to the almost $3.9 billion in waivers already issued. To date, the UIA has waived over $4.3 billion in overpayment debt for more than 400,000 Michiganders.
The UIA overpaid a total of about $8.5 billion in pandemic unemployment benefits.
“This is a huge weight lifted off so many Michiganders’ shoulders,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “No Michigander who did the right thing when applying for benefits should be required to pay anything back resulting from errors at the federal level. At every turn, I will stand up and fight on behalf of Michiganders to make sure they get what they were promised. Thanks to these waivers that we fought for and secured Michiganders will get to keep their hard-earned money.”
It was also announced that about $11 million will be refunded to claimants who had been paying back their federal benefits overpayment, or it will be applied to any outstanding debt a claimant may have.
“This is wonderful news for those who lost their job through no fault of their own,” UIA Director Julia Dale said. “The federal jobless assistance programs were a critical lifeline for many Michiganders affected by the global pandemic and our action today means they will be able to continue to provide for their families without the fear of having to pay back benefits awarded through agency error.”
Michiganders who received waivers will be notified via a message to their Michigan Web Account Manager (MiWAM) accounts. Claimants can also expect a letter confirmation in the mail as well.
There is currently a pause in collections of overpayments in place until May 7. Director of the UIA, Julia Dale said that the pause means that state tax refunds won't be intercepted by the UIA and they won't be issuing any new garnishment of worker's wages.
During a testimony Michigan Joint House and Senate Oversight Committee in April, Dale said that they hoped to have answers to questions about overpayment for nearly 350,000 Michiganders by the end of April. The 55,000 claimants who had their overpayments waived by the UIA Wednesday, fell short of the conditional number Dale provided.
Gov. Whitmer has also called on the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to expand eligibility for waivers and the UIA issued a formal request to the DOL for an extension on the pause in collections.
“I want to thank the Governor for her proactive efforts to seek federal guidance on issuing waivers for overpayments to claimants who did the right thing when the applied for benefits,” Dale said. “We will continue to review federal UI cases to make sure everyone who qualifies for an overpayment waiver will receive one.”
Waivers will not be applied to claims where the UIA determines fraud was involved and the agency will continue to pursue payments of any stolen benefits.
Still, many are waiting to see if they are part of the waived group. Marie Hosep left her job in 2020 over COVID-19 pandemic concerns. Unemployment benefits greatly helped the college student through the past couple years.
Then, last year, she received a letter from the UIA claiming she owed them $6,790 in overpaid benefits.
"It is my third year here, and it feels like I've spent the last three years building up my credit and my savings and everything," said Hosep, "I've really made a life for myself. It feels like like it's going to get taken away. So, if I have to pay that, that's like more than the total money that I have."
Hosep has not been notified she is one of the 55,000 Michiganders in the latest rounds of waivers. She continues to call lawmakers, the UIA, and more to fight the issue.
"I think that people that applied for benefits in good faith shouldn't have to pay them back," said Hosep, "I feel like they should have had a better plan about what they were expecting, and made that clear from the jump. I fell like I turned in as much proof as I possibly could, and they still disagreed with me."
Hosep said she is happy for whomever did receive waivers from the latest announcement, but know there are thousands of people still in her shoes.
"That was my first time really taking any sort of state benefits or handouts or anything," said Hosep, "And so, it kind of turned around for me, and for so many other people in the state, and probably elsewhere in the country too. It's just really unfortunate."
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