What’s already been a financially challenging year for thousands of Illinois residents, just became even more complicated for some of them.
Last week, emails started arriving in the inboxes of people who received pandemic unemployment assistance, or PUA, that they were overpaid and now have to pay that money back.
The letter from the Illinois Department of Employment Security stated, “You are receiving this notice because you were paid more in federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) than you were eligible to receive. Upon review of recent information, a monetary redetermination was made. Federal guidance requires that this money be paid back in full. We understand this may cause additional economic hardship, but we do not have the authority to waive repayment per federal law”
“I supplied them with all the paperwork that they required all my tax forms that they required. They sent me back a notice saying, okay, here's what you've been approved for. I don't see how any of the math makes sense for any of us, honestly” photographer Andrew Young said.
He applied for PUA after being denied unemployment benefits. Now, 6 months after the PUA payments were paid, Young has being told he was overpaid $6,006.00 and needs to repay it.
“It just seems like Illinois has a financial problem. And now they're looking to recoup some of what the assistance was for the people who really need the assistance in order to help pay for whatever their situation is now, and it seems wrong” Young said.
NBC 5 Responds reached out to the Illinois Department of Employment Security, inquiring about these repayments. IDES responded with this statement:
“Overpayments within the PUA system are an unfortunate consequence of a federal system haphazardly put together without much foresight concerning how it would negatively impact PUA claimant. Federal guidance does not allow states to waive the recoupment of PUA overpayments.”
But there is possible relief in the works for PUA recipients.
On Wednesday, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Tammy Duckworth , along with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio introduced the Relief for Working Families Act, a bipartisan legislation that would provide states discretion to waive PUA overpayments for individuals who acted in good faith and played no role in securing surplus benefits.
“Hardworking Americans already struggling during this pandemic shouldn’t be forced to pay for a bureaucratic error they had nothing to do with,” Duckworth said.
“No one should have to pay back thousands of dollars they thought they were getting in good faith. Our bill gives states flexibility to provide relief to families that are in need and fixes this error for countless Americans across the country,” Durbin said.