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ASK THE LAWYER By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.

| March 6, 2016

Dan Gwin new photoQUESTION: Did you receive unemployment benefits in error or after you went back to work? Penalties – often severe – may apply for improper payment.

Applying for unemployment insurance can be confusing: Applicants – and the Unemployment Insurance Agency itself – may make mistakes and benefits are awarded to individuals who are later determined to be ineligible for the benefits they already received. The bad news for the recipient of the improperly paid benefits is that the UIA generally wants its money back. Whether the benefit recipient must repay the UIA depends on the recipient’s financial position and who was to blame for the incorrect determination of eligibility.

If an applicant provided inaccurate information without any intent to misrepresent or conceal information, the UIA will often settle for repayment of the amount of the benefits improperly awarded – the overpayment – and will even waive repayment if “repayment would be contrary to equity and good conscience.” However, the waiver, if granted, is prospective: If a claimant has already made payments on the principal and interest to the UIA, those payments cannot usually be recovered.

If the improperly awarded benefits were the result of an administrative or clerical error by the UIA, the over payment amount may again be waived in the interest of equity and good conscience. Re-payment may also be waived in a “hardship” case if the person who is later determined to have been ineligible for the benefits paid has an income at or below the federal poverty level and if there was no deliberate misrepresentation or concealment in the application.

In each of the situations above, the benefit recipient must apply for a waiver of the restitution. This waiver request may be made through the UIA’s website MiWAM – a process that often limits the applicant to yes/no responses and may not address your specific situation. An application for waiver may also be by letter to the UIA. The advice and expertise of an attorney may be helpful when drafting this letter.

Caution: If the UIA determines that the applicant was at fault, and that the individual made “an intentional false statement, misrepresentation, or concealment of material information” in the application for benefits (or in continued acceptance of benefits for which the applicant became ineligible) no waiver of repayment – not even on grounds of economic hardship – is allowed. Worse, a person who deliberately misleads the UIA may be liable for repayment, plus interest, plus a penalty of up to four times the amount of benefits received.

The lawyers at GWINN TAURIAINEN PLLC are experienced attorneys and are happy to answer your questions. Give us a call for a free initial telephone consultation about your legal needs. For consideration of your questions in our web column, please submit your inquiry on the “Contact Us” page of our website at

By: Daniel A. Gwinn, Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
901 Wilshire Drive, Suite 550
Troy, MI 48084
(248) 247-3300
(248) 247-3310 facsimile
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