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U.S. Reps. Herrera Beutler, Murphy Introduce Legislation to Provide Hardship Waivers to Give Relief to Unemployed Workers

Individuals in need of emergency economic relief won’t be harmed by state errors; States will retain ability to crack down on fraud

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Washington, December 2, 2020 | comments

U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03) and Stephanie Murphy (FL-07) have introduced legislation to issue hardship waivers for congressionally-approved Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) overpayments by state unemployment agencies.

Recent reports detail unemployed and furloughed workers are finding themselves in debt because of errors made by state unemployment agencies. These individuals in need of unemployment payments are suddenly being forced to pay back thousands of dollars, with state agencies threatening to garnish paychecks and tax refunds to obtain repayment.

H.R. 8812, the Relief for Working Families Act, extends hardship waivers to states to waive PUA overpayments when the individual receiving the jobless benefits is not at fault and in which the collection of overpayments would create further financial harm. States are able to grant hardship waivers to individuals who receive state unemployment benefits, but federally distributed benefits have yet to have the same standard applied.

“Washington’s Employment Security Department should not be further burdening struggling workers because of its mistakes. Until it can develop a system to more accurately administer unemployment benefits, we should give ESD the tools to provide relief to folks struggling to put food on the table,” Herrera Beutler said. “I’m introducing legislation that ensures individuals are not held accountable for states’ mismanagement of jobless benefits, but that preserves states’ abilities to crack down on scams and seek repayment of truly fraudulent claims.”

“Because of indifference and incompetence from state leaders, Florida’s unemployment system failed workers when they needed help the most, resulting in non-payment of benefits, under-payments, delayed payments and—in some cases—overpayments,” Murphy said. “These overpayments were made due to bureaucratic mistakes. Florida workers should not be punished for errors made through no fault of their own. Requiring workers to pay back these funds now—when some federal assistance has lapsed and state mismanagement of the unemployment system continues—only adds insult to injury. This bipartisan bill seeks to prevent such an injustice.”

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