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Thousands of Ohioans left hanging as lawmakers consider waiving PUA overpayments

Proposed state law would waive overpayments
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Posted at 4:15 PM, May 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-24 19:03:11-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio lawmakers are considering a new state law that would waive overpayments of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance funds received by thousands of Ohioans as a result of calculation mistakes made by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.

It is money unemployed workers legitimately applied for, received and spent to make ends meet as a result of losing jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yet House Bill 139, co-sponsored by State Representative Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma ) remains in a House Insurance Committee where it was introduced in March.

Read an analysis of the bill by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission here.

Crossman says it “is intended to provide relief for many Ohioans who, through no fault of their own, have been ordered to pay thousands of dollars to the state despite the fact that they have followed all of the rules and did nothing.”

At the same time, federal legislation approved last December grants states the ability to waive overpayment—but the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services says it still working out a plan that could do that.

Meanwhile, ODJFS reports at least one million Ohioans have received PUA assistance since March 2020 and estimates non-fraud overpayments in the PUA program total at least $1.2 million.

Among those affected is Brandy Hunt, who has been told she has to repay nearly $7,000 because of calculation mistakes.

“This money is life and death," Hunt said. “It’s not fair and it’s not right.

Although not a guarantee of forgiveness, Ohioans can begin the process of applying for a waiver by logging on to the ODJFS online portal, checking the claimant’s overpayment status, and clicking on an option to file a late appeal. This does not assure a waiver, only a first step that claimants can take to begin the appeal process.

In the meantime, PUA recipients are left without any assurance until ODJFS either approves of a plan to forgive overpayments or lawmakers approve HB 139 that would require those overpayments be waived.

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