1. How does an overpayment happen? (or, why does DUA think that I owe them $)?
An overpayment is caused when DUA (Division of Unemployment Assistance), the Board of Review or a court reverses a claim for unemployment benefits which had been approved.
It can also occur when your benefit rate is reduced, or because you did not timely report information that affects your eligibility, such as wages from a new job, or that you were not available for work. You can challenge DUA’s decision that you were overpaid, or the amount of the overpayment. Even if you agree that you were overpaid, you may not have to pay it back if you meet certain conditions for the overpayment to be forgiven, or “waived”.
2. What happens when DUA decides I’ve been overpaid?
DUA sends a written notice of overpayment and, if you do not appeal or request a waiver, begins to collect the overpayment out of your UI benefits. DUA does not usually try to collect out of other income or money you have, so when your UI eligibility ends, the overpayment collection will probably stop. Often, however, DUA will intercept money that is owed to you from your tax filing and recover the money that way. Additionally, if the overpayment has not been fully recovered and you need UI again in the future, DUA will collect the rest then. You can apply for a waiver of the overpayment at any time during this process.
3. What do I have to show in order to get a waiver of an overpayment?
In order to have the overpayment waived, you have to show that: (1) you were not at fault in creating the overpayment and (2) it would cause financial hardship or would somehow be unfair for you to have to pay it back. For the 4,000 claimants who were sent checks in error, the lack of fault should be assumed if you thought you were entitled to the money.
4. What is “fault” in causing the overpayment?
Fault is making a statement to DUA that you knew was untrue or incomplete. This includes failing to tell DUA information which you knew or should have known would affect eligibility or benefits, or accepting a UI benefit check you knew or should have known was incorrect.
Example: If you began working and did not report these wages to DUA, you would be considered “at fault” in causing the overpayment. However, DUA should not consider you “at fault” if DUA initially approved your UI benefits and then reversed its decision on appeal. Be sure to submit to DUA whatever proof you have to show you were not at fault.
5. How do I show financial hardship?
In addition to showing you were not at fault in creating the overpayment, you must show that paying back the UI benefits would cause you or your family financial hardship. You need to show that paying the money back would leave you (and your family) without enough money for daily living expenses. These expenses may include food, clothing, rent, utilities, insurance, job or job search-related transportation expenses, and medical expenses for yourself and your family. Be sure to submit copies of receipts for your expenses.
6. Can I still qualify for a waiver if I can’t show financial hardship?
Yes, if you can’t show financial hardship, you may be able to show that paying the money back to DUA would be “against equity and good conscience.” This simply means it would be unfair. For example, if you relied on DUA’s determination that you were entitled to these benefits and went out and made a purchase you would not have made (e.g. bought a new truck with the money and now can’t return it), or you passed up an opportunity to get benefits from another source (such as food stamps or welfare), then requiring you to repay the money.
If the Department of Unemployment Assistance in Massachusetts is now taking steps to recoup money given to you, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE on hour no obligation consultation to discuss your options.