Massachusetts Residents Who Illegally Claimed Pandemic Unemployment Assistance May Have Their Debts Written Off

by | May 19, 2022 | Employment Law |

Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance paid about $2.7 billion in unemployment benefits to 719,000 beneficiaries who were later found to have been overpaid or ineligible for the benefit, according to a report.

Governor Charlie Baker’s administration attempted to have nearly $2 billion that it paid to ineligible claimants wiped off, but the Labor Department denied the request.

However, the United States Labor Department handed the state a highly complex deal that could see a specific portion of the individuals who illegally claimed Pandemic Universal Assistance (PUA) have their debts written off.

According to the Boston Globe, the deputy director of policy in the Office of Unemployment Insurance Modernization:

The state could forgive one category of overpayments: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance recipients who didn’t respond to requests for proof of previous employment.

According to the DUA, the most common reason unemployment claimants in Massachusetts were retroactively ruled ineligible for federal benefits was a failure to provide a work history.

However, Congress belatedly set a requirement after the PUA program was well underway, meaning that the fault is not on the recipient’s side but the agency administering the funds.

  • The state Department of Unemployment Assistance will have to go through its standard process of resolving most overpayments one by one, making it too soon to know how many people may qualify.

Congress provided funding for the pandemic programs administered by the DUA and headed by former Boston mayor Martin J. Walsh.

Since Congress provided the money, they can limit how generous the DUA should be; hence the waivers could be granted under two conditions:

  1. The recipient was not at fault — This will work if they can prove that they did not have proof of previous employment at the time of applying, as that constitutes the agency’s problem and not that of the recipient.
  2. Forcing repayment would go against what is known as “equity and good conscience” — This is tricky though, because it is difficult to determine when repayment would violate the squishy concept of equity and good conscience.

The vast majority of those who fraudulently claimed more money from the DUA are said to have taken advantage of a period when the department was attempting to process as many applications as possible due to the pandemic.

There is now a massive backlog of unemployment claims, with laid-off workers in need of money fast, prompting many to reportedly file claims with stolen information.

Should the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance request that you re-pay benefits, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation.

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