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Michigan: Flagged unemployment recipients won’t have to repay money

michigan unemployment
Business groups say the impending loss of pandemic unemployment benefits will be made up, at least partly, by many workers returning to work. But not everyone is so optimistic. (Shutterstock)

Sept. 9: Michigan unemployment director, under fire, pledges ‘user friendly’ upgrades
Aug. 25: 500,000-plus jobless Michigan workers brace to lose unemployment benefits
Aug. 17: Michigan unemployment system still needs fixing, critics tell lawmakers

LANSING — Hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents flagged for improperly receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance won’t have to back back the government.

On Friday, the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity announced the state has granted about 350,000 people unemployment claimants overpayment waivers. 

All of them did not respond to a request made by the state in June asking them to requalify for the benefits after the criteria changed. 

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“For those who have responded, we’re reviewing their cases to determine if they have an eligible COVID-19 related reason and if they may continue to receive benefits,” said acting UIA Director Liza Estlund Olson in a news release.

“For those who did not respond, we want to assure them that claimants who are no longer eligible won’t have to return the money they received when, through no fault of their own, they chose one of the four non-eligible reasons.”

The state said many of the 350,000 people “may no longer be collecting benefits.” Overall, of about 690,000 residents that were asked to requalify for the PUA, only about 241,000 responded. 

Friday’s decision follows weeks of confusion and anxiety that came after Michigan learned the four criteria established for PUA — which helped part-time, self-employed and “gig” workers — no longer qualified as a legitimate reason for payments.

In June, the state sent notifications to recipients telling them they had 20 days to requalify for aid, prompting concerns that people who have collected the benefits would have to pay them back retroactively to April 2020. 

The state said “affected claimants will receive notification in their (online unemployment) account, or by U.S. mail.”

The confusion has prompted Michigan Republican lawmakers to call for hearings once the Legislature resumes in fall.

Overall, at least 3.35 million Michigan residents applied for unemployment pay since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, swamping Michigan’s system and leading to a host of problems the past year.

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