What happens if you receive an overpayment of PUA benefits?
The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is required by the CARES Act to identify and recover CARES Act benefits that were overpaid. An overpayment, or improper payment, occurs if you are paid unemployment benefit payments and DUA later determines that you were not eligible to receive them. Even if the overpayment is not your fault, you will be required to repay the amount of benefits that you received unless you apply for and receive a waiver of the obligation to repay.
Notice of overpayment
If you are overpaid benefits, you will receive a “Notice of Determination.” The notice will explain the following:
- Reasoning and findings for the overpayment
- The number of weeks you were overpaid
- Amount of the overpayment
- Any possible penalties for Interest and penalties
If you are determined “at fault” for an overpayment, you will receive a “Notice of Fault Finding”. PUA overpayments that were determined to be at fault will be assessed a one-time 15% penalty.
What can cause an overpayment of PUA benefits?
An overpayment can be caused by many things:
- We were unable to verify you were attached to the labor force prior to applying for PUA benefits
- You received benefits from regular unemployment at the same time you received PUA benefits
- You received benefits for a period you worked and failed to report your earnings
- You declared dependent children that could not be verified
- You requested to have your claim predated which required us to examine your earnings from a different period
- We were unable to verify your identity
- You filed a PUA claim in Massachusetts without any proof that you lived in Massachusetts or were attached to the labor market in Massachusetts
Filing an appeal
If you disagree with the determination that you are ineligible for benefits and overpaid as a result of the ineligible determination, or that the amount of the overpayment is incorrect, you can file an appeal within 30 days of the Notice of Determination being issued. To file an appeal, you must follow the instructions included with the determination notice. If you file an appeal, no collection actions will be taken until after the appeal has been decided.
Options to repay an overpayment
You can pay online with a credit card, send a check by mail, and make electronic payments from your checking or savings account by logging in to your PUA account. Payments by mail can be made by check or money order only. Do not send cash. Mail your check or money order to:
MA Department of Unemployment Assistance
P.O. Box 9699
Boston, MA 02114
Important note: If paying by check, money order, or through your bank’s Bill Pay, you must include your claim ID to ensure the payment is processed to your account.
Right to request an overpayment waiver
If you have an overpayment of unemployment benefits, you may complete a Request for a Waiver of Overpayment application asking DUA to forgive the overpayment amount. If a waiver is granted, you will not have to repay the benefits you received.
DUA has changed the requirements for requesting a waiver of overpaid benefits from 2020 and 2021 to make it easier for claimants to get a waiver.
If you cannot repay the overpayment, you may complete a Request for a Waiver of Overpayment by logging in to your PUA account on E-Services.
DUA has authority to waive an overpayment if:
- The overpayment was not your fault; and
- Your income is less than your expenses; or
- You used the money for things that were not ordinary expenses, like paying off a debt; or
- You gave up other money (such as welfare payments) because you got unemployment benefits; or
- You receive certain income-eligible benefits such as TANF or similar benefits.
Special Circumstances for 2020-2021 overpayments:
- For 2020 and 2021 overpayments, DUA changed the waiver rules to include additional categories of circumstances where claimants are eligible for a waiver. Claimants who have been identified as eligible have been notified and presented a Simplified Waiver Request option in UI Online. Emergency Regulation change to 430 CMR 6.00. Expanded reasons include:
- where the individual provides documentation satisfactory to the director to demonstrate that he or she is indigent under either provision (a) or provision (b) of the definition established in section 27A of chapter 261 of the General Laws; or
- where the department awarded unemployment benefits and subsequently detected a nonmonetary issue affecting eligibility for benefits but failed to issue a determination regarding that issue within 21 days after the department had initially detected the issue; or
- where the department initially awarded unemployment benefits but reversed the award in whole or part after an appeal or protest that was filed more than 30 days after the initial award; or
- where the state overpayment is due to the suspension of lack of work notices during the period from March 20, 2020 to June 22, 2020; or
- where the individual applied for PUA benefits prior to March 23, 2021, when the department provided notification that required PUA claimants to submit documentation substantiating employment, self-employment, or the planned commencement of employment or self-employment, and the individual thereafter failed to submit such documentation
You can apply for a waiver of overpayment, even if you have been denied before. If you apply for a waiver, we will not take action to collect on your overpayment until we make a decision on your waiver request.
How to apply for a Simplified Waiver
To easily apply for a Simplified Waiver of the balance of your overpayment, please follow these three steps:
- Go online to https://ui-cares-act.mass.gov/PUA/ and log in to your account
- Select the “More…” tab and click on the “Apply for an Overpayment Waiver” link
- Review the information and submit the request.
Additional Relief Provided by United States Department of Labor (USDOL)
Massachusetts had requested that USDOL provide relief for all claimants with overpayments related to a new employment substantiation requirement created midway through the program. “Employment substantiation” refers to a federal rule change that required you to send us documents about your employment prior to your application for benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor has allowed DUA to waive your overpayment for the period when you did not have notice of the new requirement. The waiver covers only overpayments made for the period running from the week ending January 2, 2021 through the week ending March 20, 2021.
Because Massachusetts advocated for complete relief for these claimants, it has also prepared Special Circumstances for 2020-2021 overpayments described above to provide additional relief, with the goal of making it as easy as possible for claimants to be relieved of non-fraudulent overpayment obligations, in both the PUA and UI programs.
Claimants do not need to take any action to receive a waiver for overpayment for the period of December 27, 2020 through March 23, 2021. Claimants may request a waiver for the balance of their overpayment. DUA simplified the process to request a waiver. Please follow the Simplified Waiver instructions previously described.
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