About 1 million Californians who received unemployment benefits from the federal pandemic-related benefits program now have to prove to the state that they had a history of work – or risk repaying their benefits.
“A potential overpayment could be all the benefits you received”, warns the state Department of Employment Development, which manages the California unemployment program.
And, says EDD, “we’ll add a 30% penalty if we determine that you have intentionally given false information or withheld information to receive benefits.”
Under federal rules, the new documentation requirement could also apply to those who have filed a claim and never even received payment.
Those affected have received payments from the federally funded Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program.
The PUA was established in March 2020 to mitigate the impact of the sudden and deep recession triggered by a pandemic. The PUA ended in early September.
An estimated 2.9 million Californians have benefited from the program, which has provided assistance to people who traditionally would not qualify for regular state-provided unemployment insurance, such as independent contractors and homeowners. small businesses.
Initially, federal law only required ESD to obtain income proof from PUA recipients when they wanted to receive more weekly benefits than the minimum of $ 167.
But those who did not ask for such an increase were not required to provide documents proving their income or any other proof of work.
About 30% of those who obtained the PUA must provide the new employment data. The others have already provided this proof or are not subject to the federal requirement.
Easy access to benefits, in California and elsewhere, has sparked massive fraud. California officials estimated last month that the state paid about $ 20 billion in abusive complaints, or about 11% of what was paid since the Covid pandemic started in March 2020.
The federal government has attempted to tackle the problem by requiring a higher standard of proof from claimants demonstrating that they had worked before receiving benefits.
The requirement means that individuals who received PUA payments on a 2020 claim after December 27, 2020 or re-applied after that date must provide EDD with documentation showing that they had worked, were self-employed, or planned to work or be self-employed. employee before the start of their application.
In August, EDD began alerting applicants that this new employment status documentation requirement was coming soon, a warning that was meant to give people time to prepare accordingly.
Keep your benefits
Different types of documents can be provided. Among them, it could be a tax return, business license, business receipt or invoice, W-2 form, or pay stub. .
Also accepted are documents that could be used to prove employment or self-employment plans.
Proof of employment could include a letter from a potential employer stating the date the work was due to start.
To prove self-employment, someone might include business licenses, state or federal employer identification numbers, written business plans, or rental agreements.
If someone was receiving PUA benefits last year, they must submit forms showing their work as of 2019. If they started receiving PUA payments in 2021, they must send documents from 2020. Additional information is available on EDD. Unemployment Pandemic Help Webpage.
EDD has started advising those who need to submit this information via text message, email, and the UI online homepage for claimants.
If someone does not respond by the due date, they will receive a follow-up notice in the mail.
If they do not respond to this notice, they could be deemed ineligible for PUA benefits paid this year and may have to repay what they received.
This story was originally published 23 November 2021 13:09.