The Employment Security Advisory Council has sent several proposed changes for the Employment Security Act to the Legislature including one that would allow the State Industrial Commission to waive recovery of overpaid unemployment benefits when the overpayment wasn't the recipient's fault and the payback would result in economic hardship to the claimant.
Duane Price, director of unemployment insurance for the Utah Department of Employment Security, said the proposed amendments have been sent to the Legislature's Business, Labor and Economic Development Interim Committee.Price said Section 35-4-6 (e) of Utah law provides an unemployment insurance claimant not liable to repay in cash any benefit overpayments for which the claimant is not at fault.
The present wording limits collection of non-fault overpayments to offset against current benefit year benefits only. If the overpayment is not offset by the end of the benefit year, it must be canceled.
The U.S. Department of Labor has advised the Utah agency this limitation is inconsistent with requirements of the Federal Unemployment Tax Act. All overpayments, according to federal officials, whether fault or non-fault, must be subject to recovery by the state unless repayment would cause the claimant permanent economic hardship.
Price said the reasoning behind the federal position is simple. If the claimant isn't entitled to the benefits, the claimant shouldn't be allowed to keep the money. However, if repayment would cause the person permanent economic hardship, recovery of the overpayment may be waived by the state.
Another amendment reviewed by the council would exempt invalids from paying contributions on wages paid to private duty nurses if the nursing care is financed solely by health insurance.
Although there have been only a few cases where invalids have been required to pay contributions on wages paid to their private nurses, Price said, the invalids had no independent source of income other than health insurance.
Because the amendment involves only a few people, contributions to the Employment Security Trust Fund will be reduced by $2,300 annually and the amount of benefits paid out of the fund will be reduced by $1,900.
Other items sent to the Legislature involve preventing the transfer of wage credits, prohibiting the use of the findings in unemployment insurance appeals cases in subsequent civil lawsuits and one that expands the types of crimes committed by people disqualifying them from obtaining unemployment benefits.