Kokua Line: Must I repay wandering Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits? June 5, 2022 by admin Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Question: During the 2020 pandemic, my brother lost his new job he was to start when the mayor’s order for the shutdown came. He applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and was approved. Later, he received a letter asking him to confirm his identity and proof of the job lost. When this letter was received, he tried contacting the business and, unfortunately, it had closed. Being unable to prove the lost job, his PUA benefits were stopped and he was told to repay the benefits he had received. By this time, most of his benefits had been spent. What can he do? Answer: If incorrect PUA benefits were paid through no fault of his own, and repayment “would be contrary to equity and good conscience,” meaning that it would impose an unfair burden on him, it’s possible waive to repayment, according to the US Department of Labor , which has made it easier for states to forgive overpayments of federally funded pandemic-era unemployment benefits that were not fraudulent. Waivers are not an option if fraud was involved. As swaths of the US economy shut down early in the pandemic, Congress created temporary programs to increase jobless aid and to cover millions of Americans ineligible for standard unemployment insurance. PUA was one of these programs, paying the self-employed and others, including people like your brother, whose new jobs fell through because of the pandemic. States rushed to implement the new programs amid evolving federal guidance, which resulted in some people receiving money for which they later were deemed ineligible and told to pay back. Across the country, these claimants “generally believed that they were entitled to the benefits and spent the money to support themselves, their families, and the economy. Seeking recovery of these CARES Act overpayments from individuals who did not commit fraud, especially in light of the economic effects of the pandemic, creates an extraordinary hardship on working families, including those who have historically been underserved,” the US Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration said in a directive to state workforce agencies on Feb. 7. Any claimant with a pending overpayment should read Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 20-21, Change 1, and related attachments, at 808ne.ws/UIPL2021. They explain that states may choose to waive recovery of overpayments in some circumstances, including on an individual case-by-case basis and under “blanket waivers” applicable to a group. In addition, states may seek permission to issue “blanket waivers” for specific scenarios and Hawaii has done so, regarding certain PUA overpayments, said Bill Kunstman, spokesman for the state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. When PUA launched, eligibility was self-certified by the claimant. Later, more documentation was required. In Hawaii, some “unsubstantiated” PUA claims were paid for up to five months. The DOL’s February guidance on “state applications for blanket waivers applies to this period when the US DOL required the states to pay the PUA benefits without the substantiation. Hawaii is applying for a waiver of these overpayments that the federal government required it to pay and is working on implementing a waiver process for qualified overpayments if approved,” Kunstman said. He did not know when Hawaii’s request would be decided. More information will be made public when the waiver process is available, he said, assuming the application is approved. Auwe Auwe. I was driving up Kalakaua toward Beretania. I was in the left lane two cars from the light. I noticed a women with a walker had fallen and could not get up. The light was red so I could not cross over one lane to the curb to help her. At the traffic light was a row of cars from the corner to my left. Not one person in any car put their blinkers on and got out to help this poor women. The light turned and these cars proceeded right past her. I had to turn left and travel down Beretania to double back to see if I could help her. She was upright with her walker shuffling slowly down the sidewalk toward an elderly gentleman. I don’t know how she got up but I’m hoping someone helped her. We have become so angry and unfeeling. When did this happen? Where did our humanity go? — So sad Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-500, Honolulu, HI 96813; call 808-529-4773; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.