Thousands of Michiganders asked to repay COVID unemployment benefits due to error

Posted at 10:47 PM, Jul 13, 2021

LANSING, Mich. (WXYZ) — There’s a new letter sent by the state Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) that has some people on edge.

“It has not been an easy year financially,” said Erin Miller. She received a letter in the mail saying that she may owe the agency money they paid out in benefits.

“It mentioned that the original application through the unemployment agency included multiple questions that were not approved by the U.S. Department of Labor,” Miller said.

According to the letter, UIA included four reasons that were not provided or approved by the United States Department of Labor in its original application and continued claim filing (certification), paying out benefits to people like Miller.

People must resubmit paperwork now that COVID-19 eligibility reasons have been expanded.

“They are saying that the Department of Labor is the reason why they can no longer use those reasons,” says Rachael Kohl.

Kohl works at Michigan United as the director of the Workers' Rights Legal Clinic.

“What that could mean for the 650,000 people that receive this is that they will be found not to be entitled to those benefits from the beginning and that could be that we will have to pay them back,” she adds.

This is money Erin Miller says she doesn’t have.

“A mistake was made and now they are asking the people to pay for it,” Miller said.

Kohl says this is a clear error.

“This should be considered an administrative error,” Kohl said. "People who received these monies did nothing wrong to receive them and should’ve received them."

She says there is legislation that requires the state to take responsibility.

“The federal law says you can use state law to do that," Kohl said. "Our legislature actually has a provision in our laws already that says it’s contrary to equity and good conscious to make people pay back the money they received if it’s due to an administrative error."

Miller just wants the state to do right by her and many others.

“I barely have any savings after this last year,” she adds.

Kohl says it’s important to document your paperwork and appeal. She says if you can afford to, get legal counsel.

“There is something called the advocacy program," she adds. "If you get to the administrative law judge and get a hearing before a judge. You are entitled to a free advocate."

The Unemployment Insurance Agency has not responded to inquiries.

People who received the letter have 20 days to “provide a new self-attestation of your PUA eligibility. You must resubmit your self-attestation based on the updated list of PUA COVID-19 related eligibility reasons for UIA to determine your eligibility.”

If you do not provide a new self-attestation, the UIA says your claim will be re-evaluated based on the non-qualifying reasons previously provided.

For more information click here.