July 26th, 2021 by Laura Wilson
June 8th, 2021 by Austin LiPuma
On July 13, 2021, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), the state agency that oversees the unemployment system in Ohio, announced that unemployment claimants who received notice of a non-fraud overpayment for overpayments that they received at no fault of their own can now request waivers. If a claimant’s waiver request is approved, it would excuse the claimant from repaying those funds to the state. In addition, money will be returned to claimants who qualify for a waiver but who previously repaid the overpayment.
“Federal changes in unemployment rules, criteria, and claims volume resulted in widespread overpayments of benefits across the nation,” Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Director Matt Damschroder said. “We know that created a tremendous amount of stress for those already struggling, and these waivers will offer relief to individuals with valid unemployment claims whose overpayments were not their fault.”
ODJFS officials have begun notifying individuals, by U.S. mail or electronically, who are potentially eligible and are providing them with detailed instructions for how to apply.
Later this summer, once system programming is complete, the waiver applications will be reviewed, and approved waivers honored.
Notifications are being sent to claimants in the traditional unemployment program and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. If approved, all portions of overpayments could be waived, including the supplemental weekly $600 and $300 payments that were previously available as a result of federal stimulus legislation.
Those claimants who received Trade, SharedWork Ohio, and other types of unemployment benefits also may be eligible for waivers.
Traditional UI- How to Request an Overpayment Waiver
How to Request an Overpayment Waiver in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) System
More information and Frequently Asked Questions about unemployment claims in Ohio
May 17th, 2021 by Laura Wilson
Perhaps one of, if not the biggest, lessons from the past 15 months has been learning to abstain from grand declarations about what the future will hold. With that important qualifier, I am placing this particular post in the “beyond” category. Almost a year to the date, this blog began not knowing what the world would look like in June, 2021. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that for much of the world, the Pandemic rages on. At home, we were blessed with an objective medical miracle in the form of efficacious vaccines—entering my office last week to several glowing smiles did wonders for my headspace.
However, it remains clear that “beyond” does not mean “back.” Despite how much conflict we collectively create, humans have an exceptional ability to adapt. And adapt we did. Look how much time, money, and resources were saved for clients when utilizing technology in a smart way. For starters, look no further than the obvious tech elephant in everyone’s virtual room: Zoom. In an incredibly-not-empirically-based poll I conducted on Linkedin, 54% of respondents indicated that they would continue to use Zoom in a professional context post-pandemic. An additional 38% responded that they would use Zoom “as often as [they] can.” There are obviously some noteworthy exceptions to the agency of Zoom. While it was a wonderful tool in many contexts (personally, I thought mediations were particularly effective), there are times and places where attempting to virtualize personal contact just does not cut it. Jury trials being perhaps the biggest one.
With all that said, “beyond” means acknowledging what we have endured. Our field often lacks in access and inclusivity. The Pandemic allowed many of us to continue to practice because these tools broadened both accessibility and inclusivity. In an increasingly globalized and inter-connected world, embracing these aspects is the prudent move. As we all continue to move beyond let’s aid each other in not falling back.
May 12th, 2021 by Laura Wilson
Ohioans receiving unemployment benefits will have to resume searching for work if they want to continue to collect their benefits. On May 10, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Interim Director Matt Damschroder announced the change that goes into effect beginning the week of May 23, 2021.
From mid-March 2020 through Dec. 1, the federal government authorized states to waive work-search requirements because of the pandemic. On Dec. 6, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services resumed the work-search requirement for new unemployment claims, while exempting existing claims.
“Now that Ohioans have had the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and can safely return to work, it only makes sense that we restore work-search requirements for everyone,” said Governor Mike DeWine. According to Lt. Governor Jon Husted, “Now that all Ohio adults have access to the vaccine, it’s time to return to the traditional work requirements.”
Allowable work-search activities include applying for a job, attending a resume-writing course, or creating and maintaining a reemployment plan on OhioMeansJobs.com. Under Ohio law, some individuals will be exempt from conducting work-search activities, including employees on a temporary layoff of 45 days or less, and individuals in approved training.
Also, workers can meet their weekly work-search requirement if they are members in good standing with a union hiring hall that refers its members to jobs. For workers in approved school or training, their work-search requirement may be considered met if they are attending all classes and making satisfactory progress.
ODJFS has announced it will notify unemployed Ohioans impacted by this change directly, to allow plenty of time to understand the requirements and begin their process of weekly work-search activities.
For more Information see:
Ohio Restores Unemployment Benefits Weekly Work-Search Requirement
Unemployed Ohioans must resume search for work to claim benefits
April 27th, 2021 by Laura Wilson
Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS), the state agency that administers unemployment claims and payments in Ohio, says $413.6 million in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) overpayments were awarded last year. Nearly one in five people who applied for unemployment benefits under the PUA program have received notices from ODJFS that they were overpaid. According to ODJFS, it used reported income without verifying to get payments out quickly when PUA became available to Ohioans under the CARES Act, and only more recently has the agency started to verify income and adjust payments. As a result, amid the on-going COVID-19 pandemic many people have seen their benefits stopped and received notices that they need to pay back thousands of dollars.
Overpayment of PUA benefits to unemployment claimants who were not at fault for the improper amount and notices demanding repayment of money long-ago spent to survive the pandemic has been a nationwide issue. As a result, in December 2020, Congress passed the Continued Assistance Act and authorized states to waive the repayment if the state determines that the payment of PUA was without fault on the part of the person who applied for benefits and that repayment would be contrary to equity and good conscience. But the waiver provision is permissive. That means Ohio could choose not to waive the PUA overpayments. At this time, it is not certain that Ohio will allow waivers, but signs indicate that the state may be headed in that direction.
In mid-February State Reps. Lisa Sobecki and Jeff Crossman introduced House Bill (HB) 139, legislation that, if passed, would require the Director of ODJFS to waive the collection of certain unemployment benefit overpayments received by Ohioans through no fault of their own. This legislation is aimed at helping those who were not at fault for the overpayment by ODJFS or for those for whom repayment would cause an undue hardship.
Sobecki and Crossman recognize that many Ohioans have been struggling to pay rent and buy groceries, and many had difficulties collecting their unemployment compensation, in the first place. As Rep. Sobecki has said, “Many Ohioans can’t afford to pay back an overpayment they might have received. This isn’t the time to require those overpayments.” They argue the state should waive unemployment overpayments to protect Ohioans if the payments were received in good faith through no fault of the unemployment recipient. According to Crossman, “Forcing unemployment recipients to repay the benefits they were initially told they were rightfully entitled to only adds more insult to injury during this pandemic. In many cases, the initial delays in receiving benefits took months to begin with and created substantial hardships for people.”
In late April, ODJFS interim director Matt Damschroder testified before the Ohio Senate Finance Committee, which is considering HB 139. Damschroder explained how the state mistakenly overpaid thousands of claimants. According to Damschroder the ODJFS system was set up with an incorrect system query for the PUA program. Damschroder told the Finance Committee that ODJFS intends to release a plan on waiving overpayments sometime in May. Whether the proposed legislation requires the state to waive the overpayments of PUA or whether ODJFS comes up with its own plan for waiver remains to be seen.
In the meantime, if an unemployment claimant receives a notice of overpayment, it is possible to file an appeal. If you have questions about unemployment benefits or related issues, the attorneys at FMR are here to help.
Find out more by clicking on these links:
House Bill 139
Ohio Job and Family Services working on plan to waive unemployment overpayments
Honest PUA recipients may be forced to pay for Ohio errors in overpayments
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, signed into federal law on March 11, 2021, extends many of the pandemic unemployment programs and benefits created by the federal CARES Act and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. For workers in Ohio, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Service (ODJFS) which runs the unemployment program has developed a Resource Hub that contains information on available benefits and how to apply.
In Ohio, traditional unemployment compensation is available to workers who meet minimum employment and earnings requirements and are unemployed through no fault of their own. This regular unemployment compensation is generally available for up to 26 weeks. Under the American Rescue Plan Act, unemployment has been extended and expanded. Here is a summary of the expanded benefits.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
The PUA program supports self-employed individuals, independent contractors and others who don’t qualify for traditional unemployment benefits. Individuals not eligible for traditional unemployment benefits may be eligible for PUA. There is no minimum income requirement for PUA. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 makes it possible to receive PUA for up to 79 weeks through September 4, 2021.
To be eligible for PUA, individuals must NOT be eligible for regular unemployment benefits. In addition, they must meet one of the following COVID-19-related eligibility circumstances:
• The individual has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or is experiencing symptoms and is seeking medical diagnosis;
• A member of the individual’s household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
• The individual is providing care for a family member or member of the household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
• A child or other person in the household for which the individual has primary caregiving responsibility is unable to attend school or another facility is closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 emergency, and the school or care is required for the individual to work;
• The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because of a COVID-19 quarantine;
• The individual is unable to reach the place of employment because a healthcare professional has advised him or her to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns;
• The individual was scheduled to commence employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach the job as a direct result of COVID-19;
• The individual has become the breadwinner or major support for a household because the head of the household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;
• The individual has quit his/her job as a direct result of COVID-19;
• The individual was laid off as a direct result of COVID-19;
• The individual’s place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – Expanded Benefits Eligibility for 3 New Groups
On February 21, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor issued guidance expanding PUA eligibility to include three new groups of individuals eligible for PUA:
• Those previously receiving traditional unemployment benefits who refuse to return to work or refuse an offer of work because the workplace is not in compliance with local, state, or national health and safety standards directly related to COVID-19.
• Those who provide services to an educational institution or educational service agency and are fully or partially unemployed as a direct result of COVID-19.
• Those who are laid off or had their work hours reduced as a direct result of COVID-19.
Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
PEUC benefits are an extension of traditional unemployment benefits. They may be available to workers who have exhausted their regular unemployment benefits or whose regular UI claim has expired. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 makes it possible to receive PEUC for up to 53 weeks from April 2020 through September 4, 2021.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
FPUC provides an additional $300 weekly benefit to eligible claimants in multiple programs. The most recent federal legislation extends the FPUC supplement through September 4, 2021. In Ohio, FPUC is being provided for all unemployment programs, including but not limited to those individuals receiving traditional unemployment benefits, PUA, PEUC, and SharedWork Ohio.
Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation
The federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 created the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) program for eligible traditional unemployment claimants who also earned at least $5,000 in self-employment wages during the most recent taxable year. The program provides a supplemental benefit of $100 per week for qualifying weeks of unemployment claimed between December 27, 2020, and March 13, 2021. Ohioans who are eligible for this benefit will receive payments retroactively. The MEUC program is extended through September 4, 2021.
The American Rescue Plan also includes benefits for employers. This most recent federal legislation continues the following:
• Extends full federal funding for Ohio’s SharedWork program.
• Authorizes 75% credits to reimbursing employers for traditional unemployment benefit charges.
• Authorizes full federal funding of the first week of traditional unemployment benefits, instead of 50%.
• Extends the waiver of interest to states whose Unemployment Insurance Trust Funds require federal borrowing.
If you have questions about applying for unemployment benefits or have an issue with your unemployment award, the attorneys at Freking Myers & Reul and here to help. For more information on expanded unemployment benefits in Ohio under the American Rescue Plan, see:
Coronavirus and Unemployment Insurance: Expanded Eligibility Resource Hub
Expanded Eligibility: Frequently Asked Questions
Pandemic Unemployment Program Updates
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Step-by-Step Application Instructions