Info on Overpayments

Overpayments and what they mean for you

The pandemic period in Washington was sharply worsened for many unemployment benefits recipients in the fall of 2020 because, after receiving weeks or months of benefits, a large percentage of claimants were told they had an overpayment and must return the money. 

Overpayments are possible any time there is a benefit denial after benefits have been paid. But in the case of many 2020 claimants, the overpayment, or most of it, would be only temporary; it was often due to a requirement that the state Employment Security Department, after receiving new information relating to the claimant’s eligibility, switch the claimant from a federal benefit program to state benefits.

This need was framed vaguely as a “Potential new claim” and claimants almost never understood that it involved a possible switch of programs. The only clear information they received in a notice was that they owed the money back and might have their bank account garnished if they didn’t pay up.

This threat caused a great deal of unnecessary alarm to claimants. Many in this position were asked by the online E-Services system to file a questionnaire about their eligibility within 5 days but the claimant was no longer logging into their E- Services account regularly and did not know about the questionnaire. Their overpayment was presumptively imposed based on their non-response to a questionnaire they were not aware of.

In addition, the overpayment detail claimants typically receive does not cite any of the $600 PUC payments the claimant may have been paid between May 1 and July 31, 2020, or between January and September 2021. Those payments were included in the total overpayment amount but not itemized, causing further claimant confusion.

The Continued Assistance bill passed by Congress December 27, 2020 revised a provision of the CARES Act barring a waiver for overpayments of PUA. Waivers are now permitted for any PUA overpayment retroactive to the signing of the CARES Act March 28, 2020. However, claimants may not be aware of the new possibility of waiver.

New federal rules on handling of overpayments, starting in spring 2021, continue to ease the impact of overpayments upon claimants by limiting collection activity, providing refunds of overpayments claimants have paid off in some cases, and providing for easier access to waivers of overpayments.  ULP continues to work to obtain reforms of state law as well.

For the present, claimants who receive notice of an overpayment should know the following:

  • All overpayments are a result of a decision (a determination or redetermination) by ESD. which is usually sent separately from the notice of overpayment. If you do not know the source of the overpayment, check the notices and messages on your online portal carefully or contact ESD’s claim center at 800-318-6022, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • You should appeal the decision causing the overpayment, if you disagree with it, within 30 days of the date of the decision.
  • Once you file an appeal, you can contact the ESD Benefit Payments Control office at 866-697-4831 and request a hold on all collection activity of the overpayment while the appeal is pending.
  • After you receive a hearing date, you will have the chance to argue that the decision leading to the overpayment was incorrect and should be reversed. You will also have the chance to argue that if the decision stands, the overpayment was not your fault.
  • If the decision leading to the overpayment is affirmed on appeal, you can often request a waiver of the overpayment. You will need to establish to ESD that the overpayment was not your fault and that it would cause financial hardship if it is not waived. If ESD refuses to waive the overpayment, you can also appeal this decision.

Contact your legislator

Does this seem unfair to you? We agree. Contact your legislator today and urge them to do something about the overpayment situation.