If you are one of the millions of Americans who have received Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Benefits, chances are your weekly benefit amount was miscalculated – and you may be eligible for a back payment.
The Government Accountability Office, a congressional monitoring agency, published a spread report on the federal government’s response to the pandemic. Among other things, the agency aimed to implement PUAs.
“The majority of states have paid PUA applicants the minimum allowable benefit instead of what they are entitled to based on previous earnings,” the report said. “States should pay the difference between the amount previously paid and the amount owed for all weeks of unemployment that an individual files during the period of pandemic aid.”
The Department of Labor confirmed the underpayment issue to The Penny Hoarder, but has not released a list of states where beneficiaries may be underpaid.
“We cannot say for sure which states have taken the approach of paying minimum PUA benefits first to facilitate implementation,” said Tom Costa, who led the GAO report. “DOL officials told us most states have taken this approach.”
According to GAO analysis, it is likely that approximately 27 states have used this method.
Here’s how to find out if you’ve been underpaid and request your back payment.
What happened to the pandemic unemployment benefit?
Pandemic unemployment assistance was created with the passage of the CARES law in March. It was a lifeline for gig workers and independent contractors who would otherwise not be eligible for unemployment benefits, but the program was marred by delays.
Implementation took weeks as states waited for guidance from the Department of Labor and then tried to create new application systems separate from regular unemployment insurance. It took some states until May to accept applications. To expedite the payment process, the majority of states approved recipients for the minimum allowable benefit.
The CARES law defines the minimum benefit for PUAs as half of the average unemployment benefit in a country. The lowest average state payment is $ 181 in Louisiana. The highest value is $ 449 in Maryland. The weekly minimum PUA payments, half the average, should be between $ 90 and $ 224.
After implementing the program, states should adjust the payment amount based on a portion of your income over the past year. GAO analysis suggests that most states have not.
How to get PUA Back Pay
According to the DOL, if your state miscalculated your weekly benefit amount, you are retrospectively entitled to the correct amount for each week that you have qualified for benefits.
Regardless of when you were approved for benefits, you may be eligible for a maximum of 39 weeks of PUA payments between January 27 and December 31 if you can demonstrate that you were unemployed during this period, known as pandemic relief were period.
You have until the end of the pandemic relief period on December 31st to submit last year’s income information to your state employment office for a possible benefit adjustment.
“Applicants can provide this documentation at any time during the pandemic relief period,” the DOL told The Penny Hoarder in an email. “If this justifies the higher weekly benefit amount, the state must pay the applicant the difference for the entire time he was entitled to PUA.”
If you do not take any action before this deadline, you will not receive any back payment.
“If the applicant does not provide the documents, they are not considered to be underpaid,” added the DOL.
It can be difficult to determine if your state miscalculated your benefits. First, you need to contact the agency that approved your first PUA claim.
“Individuals should check with theirs state unemployment insurance about possible PUA back payments, ”said Costa. “The exact procedures – or where these documents are to be submitted – may vary somewhat depending on the state.”
This article originally appeared on www.thepennyhoarder.com