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Unemployment Benefit Overpayments: What to Do

Posted by Sarterus Rowe | Oct 19, 2020 | 0 Comments

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Did you receive a letter from the Washington State Employment Security Department saying they overpaid you in unemployment benefits, and that you must pay back what was overpaid to you?  Don't panic, but do attend to it promptly. 

 First, make sure the ESD letter you received was not among those mailed out in error due to the massive number of fraudulent unemployment claims the Washington ESD discovered in 2020.  According to their website, "If you received a notice or letter from us saying you owe us money, we sent this notice of overpayment in error if you:

  • Recently reported fraud using our online reporting tool or to Office of Special Investigations, or
  • Have not applied for or received unemployment benefits recently."

 An overpayment is the extra unemployment benefits that are paid to a claimant who is determined not to be entitled to those benefits.  Sometimes benefits are paid provisionally until a final decision is made regarding qualification for those benefits.   There are two types of overpayment of unemployment benefits:  Overpayment due to fraud, and overpayment in absence of fraud. 

 Overpayment due to fraud occurs when you give incorrect details, make false statements, or withhold information to get benefits.  Fraud overpayment will cause you to be ineligible from receiving benefits for one year, and will lead to an additional charge of 1% per month on the outstanding balance if repayment is not made promptly, or if you cannot afford immediate repayment and do not arrange satisfactory repayment terms.  RCW 50.20.190.

 In absence of fraud, overpayment occurs if you receive an amount that you were not eligible for through no fault of your own.  You do not have to pay any penalty, but do have to repay the amount sent to you in error.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment & Training Administration website, if you received an overpayment through no fault of your own, you may apply for a waiver of some or all of the repayment requirement by sending a letter explaining how repayment would be against equity and good conscience, or would otherwise defeat the purpose of Unemployment Insurance law.  Mail the waiver request letter to:

Employment Security Department
Benefit Payment Control
P.O. Box 24928
Seattle, WA 98124-0928

 If you wish to appeal the repayment requirement, the appeal process is clearly summarized by the ESD online.  According to the Overpayments page of the Washington Employment Security Department:

You may appeal an overpayment decision by following the instructions on the letter we send to you.  You can also learn more about appeals on the Benefits Denials and Appeals page of our website.  You must file an appeal within 30 days of the date we sent your decision.  If you do not file your appeal within 30 days, you must tell us why you are filing it late.  Unless you can show good cause for filing late, your case may be dismissed as untimely.  The easiest way to appeal is online in eServices. Click on the Decision status tab.

You can also use our appeal template, (available in English and Spanish) or write an appeal request. You can either mail or fax it to the following address (unless your decision has a different address):

Claims Center Appeals
P.O. Box 19018
Olympia, WA 98507-0018
Fax: 800-301-1795.

 Washington's Office of Administrative Hearings has created a 32-minute instructional video to help employers and claimants prepare for an appeal hearing. The video includes a mock hearing.

 Law For All wishes to extend special thanks to the Moderate Means Program for referring clients to us who have concerns with unemployment benefits.  In 2016, more than 2 million people in Washington fell between 200% and 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (poverty guidelines) and were considered of moderate income. This means they probably couldn't afford a full-fee attorney, yet they did not qualify for free legal aid. 

The Moderate Means Program (MMP) is a statewide program designed to bridge this gap with attorneys who offer reduced-fee assistance in family, housing, consumer, and unemployment law cases. The program is a partnership between the Washington State Bar Association and the law schools of Gonzaga University, Seattle University, and the University of Washington.

The WSBA Board of Governors and private grant funding through the Washington State Bar Foundation support the program.

Once a potential client applies to the Moderate Means Program, law students, under the supervision of a law school staff attorney, conduct a full intake in preparation for referral. This intake includes income information and details of the case. Law students contact legal professionals to place the case. Attorneys and limited license legal technicians get free referrals and access to over 20 free trainings in exchange for reducing their fees.  If the attorney or LLLT agrees to speak with the applicant, the law student provides the legal professional's name and contact information to the applicant. The applicant directly contacts the legal professional for an initial consultation. 

 Dollar bill image:  CC Pixabay

About the Author

Sarterus Rowe

Executive Director – Sarterus Rowe Sart Rowe is a litigator, professor, techie and Social Justice Wizard leading Law for All. He is also a former Chairman of the Board for Washington Lawyers for the Arts and a current board member of the Northwest Consumer Law Center.  Sart teaches as an adjun...


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