CBS 58 has a report about how Wisconsinites with a BAR are not receiving any of the $600 PUC payment despite guidance that they should receive at least $300 PUC payment each week. The key paragraph from the story:
“We have received verification [from the US Dep’t of Labor] that if somebody has a BAR fine, which is a benefit amount reduction, they are not eligible to receive Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which is the acronym FPUC or the additional $600 a week, and basically it’s because this person was found to have committed fraud against the system and therefore they would not be able to get those additional benefits due to that bar penalty as a result of committing fraud,” said Emily Savard with the Department of Workforce Development.
Here is the May 8th e-mail message in which the Department announced this policy to its staffers:
From _, Melissa – DWD
Sent: Friday, May 08, 2020 10:46 AM
Subject: FPUC and BAR
If a claimant does NOT receive UI, PEUC or PUA payment for a week because the entire amount is applied to the Benefit Amount Reduction (BAR) the claimant will not receive Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) (extra $600).
IQ Supervisor (Integrity and Quality)
The Department’s own original April 20th guidance on PUC benefits did NOT have this exclusion (emphasis supplied).
Eligible to receive a payment under UI, UCFE, UCX, PEUC, PUA, EB, STC, TRA or DUA. FPUC is added after all debts are offset, forfeited, or applied to a benefit amount reduction from the individual’s UI. Individuals whose UI payments are intercepted to pay debts (child support or pverpayments) are eligible for the $600 FPUC payment, even if 100% of their weekly benefit amount is intercepted.
According to the CBS 58 report, the Department asked for additional guidance from the US Dep’t of Labor on this issue. But, why would additional guidance be needed?
A BAR used to be called a forfeiture of future unemployment benefits. Here is how an initial determination in 2016 regarding a “BAR” read:
The claimant shall forfeit $12705.00 of unemployment compensation benefits that become payable during the six year period that ends 02/05/22.
Additionally, the Department may at a later date seek criminal prosecution under Wis. Stats. 108.24.
Forfeiture (the withholding of future payable benefits) is an administrative penalty for intentionally concealing information affecting your unemployment eligibility and is in addition to any overpayment caused by such concealment of information.
And, here is the relevant language for a “BAR” in an initial determination in 2018:
The claimant’s benefit amount shall have a reduction of $1480.00. This reduction remains in effect for benefits and weeks that become payable during the six-year period that ends 02/15/25.
This benefit reduction of future payable benefits is an administrative penalty for intentionally concealing information affecting your unemployment eligibility and is in addition to any overpayment caused by such concealment of information.
There has been NO change in this law, Wis. Stat § 108.04(11), during this time. The only change has been in how the Department characterizes this forfeiture of future unemployment benefits.
But, this change in terminology by the Department is important. Federal guidance for the payment of the $600 PUC payment has the following information about when there is an over-payment of benefits because of a forfeiture and whether the $600 PUC is still paid:
Question: Must FPUC payments be used to offset intrastate state or federal UC overpayments?
Answer: Yes. FPUC payments must be reduced to recover state and federal UC overpayments if the state has a cross-program offset agreement in place with the Secretary under Section 303(g)(2), SSA (42 U.S.C. § 503(g)(2)). However, a state may not offset more than 50 percent from the FPUC payment to recover overpayments for these unemployment benefit programs.
UIPL 15-20 PUC benefits, Change 1 (9 May 2020) at I-2 (emphasis supplied).
Essentially, the Department is claiming that this change in wording in how it calls this forfeiture of future unemployment benefits — from a forfeiture to a benefit amount reduction or BAR — means that the federal guidance about still paying $300 of the federal PUC payment (and earmarking the other $300 towards the remaining benefit amount reduction) does not apply.
Again, as with eligibility for PUA benefits for the disabled (see the discussion of SSDI in this post), the Department is going out of its way to stymie the whole purpose of the CARES Act: to stimulate the economy by giving folks needed cash to pay for rent and groceries.
As the federal guidance for PUC payments explains:
Question: When is an FPUC payment considered to be overpaid?
Answer: An FPUC payment is an overpayment any time an individual receives an FPUC payment for which the individual was not eligible. For example, if an individual is paid FPUC and the underlying UC benefit payment is subsequently denied and determined to be overpaid, then the FPUC payment is also overpaid. However, if an individual is eligible receive at least one dollar ($1) of underlying benefits for the claimed week, the individual is eligible to receive the FPUC payment for that week.
UIPL 15-20 PUC benefits, Change 1 (9 May 2020) at I-2 (emphasis supplied).
All the claimants currently under the BAR penalty are seeing in their benefit statements that they are being credited/reduced each week for these BAR/forfeiture penalties. Just like any forfeiture, these funds simply are not being paid out to them. So, why is the Department at least not paying out the $300 PUC as per federal guidance on this issue?
I too have been denied regular unemployment, and PUA. I’ve been on disability since 2009 and work part-time. I live in WISCONSIN.
After a thorough review of the Federal Coronavirus Cares Act, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), the State of Wisconsin is violating the relief by denying payments of $600 per week to disabled persons who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments, claiming the 2013 law claiming recipients of SSDI cannot receive unemployment insurance benefits as this would be fraudulent. The PUA benefits for self-employed workers are not traditional unemployment benefits referred to in the state law. The intent of the Cares Act was to support those ordered to shelter in place by the Governor. It is unconscionable that the State of Wisconsin would literally steal funds from some of the most vulnerable citizens, the disabled. There ought to be a class action suit filed to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens.
My unemployment just got cut 300 dollars says fpuc was cut 300 for some reason don’t know why can’t get thru to find out does anyone know why
UI concealment would be my guess. Check your mail. Skip the online system for now. And, call collections at 608-266-9701.
So what can we do about the State having word play with terminology in regards with eligibility for FPUC even if we did have a BAR?
State bows says you are eligible for PUA.
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I am in this situation, I had an overpayment in the amount of $173.00 in 2017, with fines and late fees which came about in 2018 when I had applied for UE again and this is when they noticed the overpayment the total was then $1500. They also gave me a 6 year or $6,480 forfeiture. Had I known there was going to be a world pandemic, I would have filed unemployment for 10 weeks when I was eligible, which would have brought my forfeiture down by almost $3,000 my current unemployment says that I am receiving regular unemployment and FPUA, however they are only taking off my regular payment of 278. How can we bring up this issue either in court or elsewhere??
Hi Angela im Joseph Bohn and i went through the same thing i lost out on about 9 grand cause of an overpayment in 2014 and to top it off it was a couple months before the 6 year limitation at that. Every sp often it will get to me and ill look into it but never get anywheres, i called a place in madison with free legal advice and they told me the state was in the right, but i think they just didn’t want to go against the state as well as they see what kind of situation it is with unemployment and an overpayment they looked down upon it. The thing is though is when you cut out the b.s and the so called language, it was simply wrong, we already were given a penalty and a harsh one at that, i believe it was 3 times the amount i owed cause of the bar/forfeiture, which is the penalty and then when we are starting to go through a pandemic they want to keep our assistance from us and add on another penalty just out the blue, that is not humane nor logical for the state even, keeping money from going into the economy, it dont make sense, so i wonder where that money goes then, i wonder if theres an underlining motive to why this happened, i cant even believe our fed government would give out that kind of help then not even make sure it went to the right hands, then there cant be only few of us this happened to i mean it goes back for 6 years theres probly thousands of us and so its like where is the help, i seen one new station online say something and thats it, did you ever figure anything more on it, im gonna try and find some legal help, this could be a huge case, class action even cause i know other states did this also, cause now i want all my overpayment back plus the stimulus pay and pain and suffering, i went homeless cause of this and i can prove it, you dont take someones only support during a pandemic, i didn’t get unemployment for about 3 months then when i finaly got it i was told theres no back pay cause of the overpayment and i wouldn’t even get my full regular weekly benefits for 2 more weeks cause i still owed part of it yet so for 3 months the first 3 months at that which are the most crucial i got nothing then for two more weeks i got 130 bucks, i was homeless by then cause i wasn’t covered under the eviction memoratorium deal cause i was renting a room off craiglist so i wasn’t under a lease or contract and being the owned the home i had no say and they needed the money also cause they were laid off and they had someone else that had money and could rent it so ya i got screwed! My name is Joseph Adam on facebook or my email is email@example.com if you or anyone that reads this can help id be willing to compensate you out the money if i were to get it back. Thanks
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