SECTION 1. (a) Notwithstanding section 69 (c) of chapter 151A of the General Laws or any other general or special law to the contrary, with respect to individuals receiving any unemployment insurance benefits that were accrued in 2020 and 2021, including but not limited to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Federal Extended Benefits, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, and Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation, the department of unemployment assistance shall:
(1) provide notice of the availability of the overpayment waiver process under the standards described in subsection (b) on all notices concerning unemployment insurance benefits overpayments including but not limited to statements of accounts to all individuals described in subsection (a) who were overpaid for any week or weeks in 2020 or 2021 and who have not previously been granted a full waiver of the overpaid weeks, regardless of whether an application for a waiver of overpayment was filed, determined, appealed, or is otherwise final; and
(2) provide individuals telephone assistance or in-person assistance where available to apply for waivers of overpayment including but not limited to individuals who are limited English proficient or who lack familiarity with or access to technology or other resources needed to complete the waiver request or provide supporting documentation.
(b) The department shall grant a waiver of overpayment to individuals who meet the requirements of section 69 (c) chapter 151A of the General Laws, or to any individuals described in subsection (a) of this act who apply for a waiver, if, in the judgment of the director, based on the facts and circumstances of the individual’s claim for a waiver, the individual is without fault. Under these circumstances, it shall be against equity and good conscience for the director to recover an overpayment, and the department shall grant a waiver:
(1) where the individual meets the indigency standards set out in section 27A of chapter 261 of the General Laws; or
(2) where the individual used the unemployment benefits to meet their ordinary living expenses; or
(3) where the department made programming, technological or automated system errors or where individuals relied upon the department’s publicized information later determined to be erroneous; or
(4) where the department failed to determine a nonmonetary issue within 21 days after the department detected the issue; or
(5) where the department initially awarded unemployment benefits but reversed the award after an appeal that occurred more than 30 days after the initial award; or
(6) where the department failed to send questionnaires to interested parties prior to awarding unemployment benefits; or
(7) where a decision on a hearing that resulted in an overpayment being assessed was issued more than 30 days after the first unemployment benefit payment; or
(8) where the overpayment is based on unemployment claims that were opened while the department suppressed lack of work notifications; or
(9) where there is any other reason for which recovery of the overpayment would be against equity and good conscience under the circumstances; or
(10) where the denial of a waiver would fail to further the mandate contained in section 74 of said chapter 151A to lighten the burden which now falls on the unemployed worker and the worker’s family.
(c) The department shall review all waiver applications including waiver denials for individuals described in subsection (a) and shall grant waivers of overpayments in accordance with subsection (b), making all reasonable efforts to review said applications within 90 days of the effective date of this act. Any funds recouped or repaid prior to the granting of these waivers shall be returned to the individual within 30 days of the waiver being granted.
(d) The department shall ensure that no overpayments are or have been established based on a redetermination more than 1 year after the first date for which benefits are paid on the unemployment claim at issue where there is no fault on the part of the individual as prohibited under section 71 of chapter 151A.
(e) All notices required under this Act shall be in plain language and provided to individuals in their preferred language and preferred method of communication.
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