Unemployment overpayments and collections
Pandemic-era overpayment waiver update
Dec. 22, 2022
The Employment Security Department has developed new rules for waiving overpayments from weeks claimed during the COVID-19 pandemic — between Feb. 2, 2020, to Sept. 4, 2021. We made these rules using federal guidance. ESD cannot waive all overpayments. But we are looking for every opportunity to provide relief to those severely impacted by these overpayments.
What is an "overpayment?"
Overpayments of unemployment benefits occur when someone received benefits that they are later found to have been ineligible to receive.
This can happen for two main reasons:
- If you received more benefits than you are entitled to. For example:
- You were being paid on a conditional basis while we reviewed your claim.
- After review, we then found you to be ineligible for that amount.
- If this happens, we will send you a decision with an Overpayment Assessment, which will say how much you owe.
- If you fail to respond to a requests for information from us. For example:
- You receive a notification that we need more information from you. Examples could be that we need to verify your identity or we need more information about why you left your job. You must respond within a 10-day window.
- If you do not respond within that timeframe then we must stop additional payments, issue a denial of benefits already paid, and then send an overpayment notice.
- Note: This overpayment may be overturned once you complete the original request for information and are found eligible for benefits. If you missed the deadline, appeal our decision and provide the requested information. Based on your appeal, the overpayment may be removed when we can confirm you are eligible.
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.
Please do not ignore overpayment notices
Unless you were a recent victim of imposter fraud, outlined below, it is important you read the overpayment notice thoroughly and follow the instructions. If the overpayment is a result of missing information, then contact us as instructed in the letter so we can fix the issue, or work out a payment plan that works for you.
Overpayments sent in error – fraud update
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.
We're so sorry for the anxiety this must have caused and we want to reassure you that you do not owe any money as a result of a fraudulent claim. You can ignore the overpayment notice. You also have access to all benefits for which you are entitled, should you need them.
Our unemployment benefits computer system sends overpayment letters automatically when people really do need to repay benefits. Due to the massive number of fraudulent claims filed recently, the computer system sent many of these letters in error before we could stop them. We’re very sorry you accidentally received one.
Contact the Employment Security Collections Unit:
Money was taken out of my benefit payment and listed under “Intercepts” in eServices. What does this mean?
Money may have been taken out of your benefit payment for the following reasons:
- Income tax withholding.
- Repaying a debt to ESD.
- Child support.
You reduced my benefit payment by 100 percent because of an overpayment. Can I change this?
It depends. You should contact the collections unit to discuss your situation at the number above or by email: email@example.com.
I filed a late appeal and I would like to stop debt collection. How do I do that?
Each collection activity is unique. If you find yourself in this situation, call our collections unit or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can’t afford for ESD to collect my debt out of my benefits. Is there a hardship exception?
Each collection activity is unique. We evaluate each request on a case-by-case basis. If you find yourself in this situation, you should call the collections unit or email email@example.com.
What’s an offset?
If you’re late on payments for two bill cycles, our system automatically deducts the amount you owe from any benefits you’re receiving. This deduction is called an offset. It's important to know that an offset isn't the same thing as a payment plan. But a payment plan could change an offset.
There are some situations where the department will offset 100 percent of your benefits. For more info, call the collections unit.
The unemployment claims center referred me to the collections unit to stop debt collection and set up a payment plan. Can you help me with that?
Yes! Contact the collections unit to set up a personalized payment plan.
I submitted a waiver for an overpayment and haven’t heard back. Who do I contact for more information?
Please call the unemployment claims center at 800-318-6022 to ask about a waiver. If you have questions about setting up a payment plan, please call the collections unit.
Are PUA overpayments eligible for waivers?
With the passing of the Continued Assistance for Unemployed Workers Act of 2020, PUA overpayments are now eligible for waiver consideration. You do not need to request a waiver. Those who are potentially eligible for a waiver will be sent a questionnaire that we will use to determine waiver eligibility. There is a large number of PUA overpayments we need to review before sending the questionnaire and it may take us most of 2021 to do this.
I need to correct the amount withheld from my benefits for child support. Who do I contact?
You will need to contact the Department of Social & Health Services (DSHS) to discuss the amount being withheld.
I won my appeal and the debt should be removed from my account. What happens next?
Once we receive the appeal decision from the Office of Administrative Hearings, we will process the decision and update your eServices account. If a debt remains because of a different issue, and you want to set up a payment plan, call our collections unit.
I need to stop or remove a lien from my property, a wage garnishment, or withholding from my bank account. Who do I contact?
We aren’t taking these kinds of debt collection actions during the pandemic. Our computer system might have automatically sent you a notice saying that we placed a lien or garnishment, but we haven’t forwarded them to a court for legal proceedings.
Instead, if you have a debt on your account, we can work with you to set up a payment plan. To do so, call our collections unit. If you paid off the debt, call the collections unit and ask us to remove it from your account.
I need to change the date of my debt repayment. How do I do this?
We’re sorry, but we can’t make that change. The date is based on the when we sent you the Determination Notice.
What is ESD’s policy about collecting debt from a person who is deceased?
ESD would ask for documents to verify the death. We also would try to determine if the deceased person’s estate could pay the debt. If the estate could not pay, ESD would likely reduce or forgive the debt.
Still have questions?
If you have questions about why you were overpaid, please contact the claims center.