Issues, mistakes on unemployment compensation noted


Special to the Eagle

The Alabama Department of Labor (ADOL) is providing a listing of common issues regarding unemployment compensation claims, along with some common mistakes claimants make when filing their claims.

“We are seeing several things occurring repeatedly in relation to unemployment claims,” Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said. “We want to help educate those out of work as to what some of these terms mean and how they can avoid making mistakes that could stop their payments.”

CLAIMANT MISTAKES

Answered COVID Questions Incorrectly: Under the CARES Act, the federal government requires ADOL to ask a specific set of questions to determine eligibility for CARES Act programs.  These questions must be answered each week.  In order to remain eligible for benefits, a claimant must be otherwise able and available for work except that they are unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work due to a qualifying COVID-19 related reason. If a claimant answers that they are NOT out of work due to a COVID-19 related reason, their benefits will be halted.

Answered Self-Employment Question Incorrectly: As part of the weekly certification process, claimants will be asked if they have become self-employed or if they have returned to self-employment activities. This can be especially confusing for those who would normally be self-employed, but are currently not working due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.  This question applies only to the CURRENT WEEK BEING CLAIMED, not the claimant’s usual or permanent employment position.

Direct Deposit Errors: A “Non-Deliverable Direct Deposit” issue means that the banking account information provided to ADOL is incorrect, and the bank is unable to accept the payment.  Claimants should contact treasurer@labor.alabama.gov to correct this information.

Break in Claim: If a claimant does not file for two or more weeks, this will create a break in claim. The claim must be reopened. 

Wages Reported: When reporting wages earned for the week, claimants should include all overtime pay, tips, vacation or sick pay, or pay received under a PPP loan. Social Security, unemployment compensation benefits (including the $600 FPUC), or pensions SHOULD NOT be reported as weekly income. Any income reported that is more than the claimant’s weekly benefit amount (WBA) will cause the claimant to not qualify for unemployment compensation for that week and the claimant will need to file an additional claim.

Failure to Certify Weeks: Many claimants are not receiving benefits because they fail to file their weekly certifications (request for payment). ADOL cannot pay benefits for weeks which have not been properly certified. Certifications can be done online at www.labor.alabama.gov or by calling the appropriate number: Montgomery – (334) 954-4094; Birmingham – (205) 458-2282;  and  not in a local area – (800) 752-7389. PUA recipients MUST file their weekly certifications either by telephone or on the PUA app, at https://pua.labor.alabama.gov.

COMMON ISSUES

Between Academic Terms: After the 2019-2020 school year was originally scheduled to end, a school is no longer considered closed as a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Education employees who see “Between Academic Terms” have had their payments suspended because they are no longer unemployed due to the pandemic. School employees who don’t normally receive pay during the summer months have never been eligible for unemployment compensation. In some cases, claimants may no longer be employed with an educational entity, but their base wages (earned within the last 18 months) are still attached to a previous education related job.

Refusal of Work – New Hire: A “Refusal of Work – New Hire” issue means that the claimant’s employer has reported that the claimant has refused an offer of suitable work. Claimants should know that failing to accept an offer of suitable work (with the exception of 10 COVID-19 related reasons) can cause benefits to be stopped and may be considered fraud.

Fraud / Overpayment Balance: If a claimant sees a notification regarding a fraud or overpayment balance, this means that the claimant has a balance due from a previous claim that remains unpaid.  ADOL is allowed to offset weekly payments (up to 50 percent for PEUC and FPUC payments) to account for prior overpayments on regular UC claims and PUA claims.  However, interest and penalties related to the fraud or overpayment balance are NOT able to be offset and must be paid in full before payments can resume.  Claimants can pay balances online at https://labor.alabama.gov/uc/OOPRS/Default.aspx or in person (with exact change or a money order) at 649 Monroe St., Montgomery, AL. Online payments update weekly on Thursdays.

Separation Issues: A Separation issue means that the reasons given by the employer and employee for why the employee is not working do not match.  ADOL MUST provide due process to the employee and the employer to allow them to provide information regarding the employee’s separation. This process takes time and entails an investigation and a determination. 



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