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State starts telling some freelancers it wants its pandemic money back

WBZ Newsradio reports a year after the feds approved money for unemployment for people who normally wouldn't qualify - gig workers and freelancers - the state Office of Labor and Workforce Development is now trying to claw some of that money back, demanding up to $30,000 in repayments from some people.

Some freelancers said they resorted to self-medicating to deal with the stress of unexpectedly owing thousands, or had even become suicidal.

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I hate when the government pulls stuff like this. Stop changing the rules mid stream and expecting everyone to know what page you are on.

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The rule change was at the federal level and enforcement/implementation was at the state level.

Rules change. It happens. We live in a country in which we are able to bring about change in our rules. This is a good thing.

But I would agree that the state could and should have been more proactive in reaching out to these recipients after the rules changed, transparently communicating the new requirements and consequences, rather than throwing hefty penalties around six months after the rules changed. (If the state did actually do this and we're not hearing that fact yet, my statement is null.)

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Only when they pay up first will we talk about screwing over people trying to feed themselves and pay rent.

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I'm not standing in the way of that...

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This same thing happened to me with EBT food stamps. When I got a new job with the same salary I was previously getting, but one that was not financed by the government grant that had previously been paying my salary, I informed EBT and sent all the necessary paperwork. I received a letter back that I still qualified for the full EBT amount. Over a year later I received a letter from them that stated I had been overpaid by EBT for all that time since I got the new job. I contested it, telling them (and showing the letter) that I was informed I was eligible for the amount they had been giving me. They outright ADMITTED that it was a mistake on their end and that I shouldn't have been getting the full amount of food stamps. But it mattered not. I am still responsible for paying it all back. The rep's exact words were "there is NO wiggle room on this". I was left holding the bag even though it was, by their own admission, their fault and I had done everything on the up and up and by the book. What kind of thing is that?

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The state is being forced to implement a federal policy signed into law by Trump THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS that forces states to try to claw back benefits paid out to gig workers, presumably so Trump could use it to give more tax breaks to billionaires.

Merry Christmas everybody. We want back all that money you used to feed yourselves and your hungry kids fed and to keep yourselves housed during the pandemic when your entire income disappeared in an instant, income that is only now slowly beginning to return to you. We want the money back.

Good luck. They can't get blood out of a turnip.

Affected people should know that they have the right to appeal, they have the right to counsel although almost nobody in the legal world seems to know what to do in the situation, and that they have the right to file for a hardship waiver if they simply don't have the money to pay back because they, god forbid, used it to eat.

I hope that affected people reach out and find support during this incredibly stressful moment. Please reach out to a hotline like 1-800-273-TALK. Don't let the bastard murder you. Please.

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Trump signed a spending bill that had broad bipartisan approval in both chambers of Congress, two days after Christmas, if we really want to be exact.

A few days later, the Dept of Labor sent out guidance to states on how to implement the new requirements. (https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/eta/eta20201230-1)

The new requirements were NOT retroactive, they went into effect on the day the bill became law, 12/27/20. So the only money being pulled back is money the state gave to recipients after the new rules went into effect. Maybe the Commonwealth should have put a hold on these payments and taken care of these compliance issues in early January, rather than hand out the money for what I assume was close to 6 months, then tell those recipients to give it back if they can't dig up old records to prove that they continue to be eligible.

If I'm remembering correctly, had the bill that did set up these new rules had not been passed, the extended unemployment benefits would have outright expired around the first of the year and none of these people would be in this situation, because they would have been cut off completely from the payments they continued receiving. I'm not sure that would have been a great outcome either...

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Trump signed it, but the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation voted for it three days before Christmas. Since they, unlike the former guy, are largely still in office, we should also thank them for their generous holiday gift for gig workers.

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Another Trump apologist?

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As I noted in my reply right above yours, had the bill that contained these new provisions not been passed, the PUA unemployment benefits for folks in this category would have ended. Actually, they did lapse briefly on 12/26 since the bill wasn't signed into law until the 27th. (https://www.cnbc.com/2020/12/04/the-cares-act-provisions-that-expire-at-...)

Should the "Christmas gift" as you are calling it have instead been no more PUA payments for anyone?

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As a freelancer receiving PUA, they gave notice in late March that you needed to provide proof of self-employment by June 21, We had 90 days to respond. I know some people in my field who responded in April, received a denial, and then appealed and got approved. Some of those got state reps or state senators involved, but their appeal was granted. Basically you had to ignore this for 3 months; or else you had pretty poor application to begin with.

What they want to claw back is from January 1 on.

A good example of documentation that would fill the bill would be copies of prior year tax returns. Then again, if you weren't reporting your freelance income on your taxes, you're probably in other sorts of trouble.

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and it was somehow even worse.

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I didn't spend any of the stimulus money that was "given" to me. It's all sitting in a bank account, waiting to go right back to the Treasury.

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Self-medicating will totally help this.

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