Overpaid Unemployment Compensation Benefits (FAQs)
I got a notice saying I have to pay back unemployment compensation benefits. What does it mean? +
When the state thinks it paid you money by mistake, it's called an "overpayment." The state agency sends you a letter asking you to repay the money.
I'm not sure what the letter looks like. +
At the top, it says "Overpaid Account Establishment Notice." It will say the amount owed, the time when money was paid in error, and whether "Fraud" or "Non-Fraud.
Why does the letter say "Fraud" or "Non-Fraud"? +
If the letter says "Fraud" the state is saying you lied or did something else dishonest to get the money. If it says "Non-Fraud" the state thinks it was an honest mistake by you or the state.
Why should I care if it says "Fraud"? +
The state always wants the money back if you can pay it. But, if the letter says "Fraud" the state will add a penalty, and keep you from getting unemployment benefits anytime in the future until you pay up.
What can I do when I get an overpayment letter? +
You have the right to appeal the overpayment letter. Appeal right away to protect your rights! You only have a very short time to appeal. Weekends are counted in the appeal time. Also, talk with a lawyer if you can.
The letter says "Non-Fraud" and the amount is right. But, I can't afford to pay the money back. Should I still appeal? +
Yes. In an appeal, you can tell why you can't pay the money back. You can ask the state to stop trying to collect the money. This is called asking for a "waiver." They’ll send you a waiver questionnaire that you must timely complete and return. You can send with it, if you want to, copies of your bills and debts and income (if any). They will tell you the different ways you can get this to them.
What happens when I appeal? +
You will get a telephone hearing with a person called an "administrative law judge." This person works for the state and is usually not a lawyer.
What happens at the hearing? +
The judge uses a tape recorder. Usually, the only people at the hearing are you and the judge. But, if the state wants to prove "fraud" a state worker will also be there. This worker will try to prove you lied or did something else dishonest to get benefits.
At the hearing, you can explain why:
The overpayment is wrong;
The amount is wrong;
You did not commit "fraud;" and/or
You can't pay the money back
How do I show I can't pay the money back? +
The judge should have the waiver questionnaire that you sent in. If it got lost, you can tell the judge about your income, debts, and expenses.
Do I need a lawyer at the hearing? +
Maybe. You should try to get legal help if you:
Are accused of "fraud;"
Have problems talking or hearing; or
Can't speak or understand English well.
I did not appeal the overpayment notice. Can I still ask for a "waiver?" +
You can try. Go to a local unemployment or job service office. Tell them you want to apply for a waiver. If they won't help you, talk to a lawyer.
What if the state denies my appeal of the overpayment, or denies me a waiver? What can I do? +
You have the right to appeal again. The time to appeal is very short. Appeal, then try to get a lawyer to help you.