COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said it accidentally overpaid recipients of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program $1.2 billion from the beginning of the pandemic through February 2021. Those who received it may have been asked to pay that money back.
A report, published by the non-profit, Eye on Ohio, the Ohio Center for Journalism and written by Cid Standifer examines those overpayments.
The state said overpaid $21 million due to Unemployment Insurance fraud, $457 million due to Unemployment Insurance non-fraud, $441 million due to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Fraud and $2.1 billion due to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance non-fraud.
It totals more than $2 billion in overpayments.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance was created for people who don't qualify for traditional unemployment benefits.
Standifer said some of the people she spoke with were told they owe tens of thousands of dollars.
"The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance was set up brand new at the beginning of the pandemic. It was a new system created by the CARES Act in Congress," Standifer said. "And a lot of people were approved and got PUA payments for months and then at some point, ODJFS looked at their files and said, 'We shouldn't have paid you at all and you need to give all of that back.' What ODJFS isn't saying is that according to an amendment to the CARES Act, passed in December, the state has the ability to say, 'This was our mistake. We know it would be difficult for you to pay back $20,000, so we are just going to forgive this.'"
Standifer said the state is working on a system where people can request a waiver for those payments to be forgiven and deciding whether or not it can automatically forgive overpayments without the recipient needing to do anything.
ODJFS Director Matt Damschroder updated the press on the Unemployment Insurance Program on May 17.
"We are currently working on a waiver policy for non-fraud overpayments. That policy must align with federal law and guidance, some of which was issued recently. This may allow us to establish blanket waivers to individuals who have been overpaid through no fault of their own, in certain circumstances. We will have more information on that soon," ODJFS said.
Until then, Standifer said people should appeal any overpayments they received.