Inside Indiana Business
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Workforce Development has officially resumed federal pandemic unemployment benefits after an Indiana Court of Appeals ruling last week.
The department says the $300 weekly add-on payments will be retroactive to the week ending June 26, which was the first week the state stopped offering them. DWD Chief Unemployment Insurance and Workforce Solutions Officer Regina Ashley said that since Thursday, July 15, the department has already paid more than $33 million to over 25,000 claimants.
During a news conference this morning, Ashley reiterated the state does have an overpayment waiver program for the pandemic benefits.
“We have had a process in place to address pandemic overpayments since November of 2020,” said Ashley. “An overpayment is when an individual is paid more benefits than he or she should have been paid. All claimants are notified about the waiver process on their overpayment notice that they receive from the department. If a claimant appeals or if they request a waiver, there will be no attempts to collect the overpayment until those processes are resolved.”
Representatives of WISH-TV in Indianapolis say they have received more than 800 complaints regarding unemployment overpayment issues, some of which say they had to repay more than what they received. DWD Commissioner Fred Payne responded to a question of whether the department would waive those individuals who were eligible, properly submitted their documentation, but are still being required to repay.
“If there is an individual who received an overpayment and they provided us with a waiver or they’ve appealed, we’ve stopped any type of attempts,” said Payne. “Generally speaking, if there is a legitimate overpayment and it falls within one of our waiver provisions, then that person will not be asked or be required to pay back any money.”
In addition to the $300 weekly-add on, known as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, the DWD is also restarting the benefits to independent contractors, gig workers and those otherwise not eligible for unemployment, known as the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. The department is also restarting the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which extends benefits beyond the normal 26 weeks.
Ashley says because the benefits are on a week-by-week basis, individuals who were unemployed after June 26 but found employment before the benefits were reinstated, can still receive retroactive payments for the weeks they were unemployed.
In late June, Marion Superior Court Judge John Hanley called for the state to temporarily reinstate the federal unemployment benefits until a lawsuit filed in response to the governor’s decision to halt the benefits was resolved. Payne says since the benefits had already stopped, the DWD had to work with the U.S. Department of Labor to begin the process of reinstating them.
Payne says since March 2020, the state has provided about $8.6 billion in benefits to about 875,000 individuals, more than the previous five years combined. The DWD says if the state prevails in the lawsuit and is allowed to halt the federal benefits, then those who received benefits will not be required to repay them.