Michigan waives 55,000 pandemic unemployment insurance overpayments

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency announced May 4 that an additional 55,000 unemployment insurance claimants who received overpayments during the coronavirus pandemic will not have to repay the funds. The agency also said about 400,000 overpayments totalling $4.3 billion had already been forgiven.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed a bill Feb. 28 allowing for the forgiveness of overpayments related to the conflict of state and federal policies for the payment of federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits.

PUA benefits were designed to assist workers who did not qualify for regular unemployment insurance benefits, such as gig workers, self-employed workers, and part-time workers. Michigan’s unemployment insurance law conflicted with the federal law and did not allow part-time workers to claim unemployment insurance benefits. The state required claimants to be able and available to work full time. Due to the conflict, the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency requested repayment of benefits from some part time workers (and from workers who were not available to work for pandemic-related reasons, such as caretaking) who attested to their ability and availability to work full time.

Unemployment insurance refers to a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.

The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.

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