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12 Responds: Why are we being asked to return $9,800 in COVID-19 unemployment assistance?

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Pawtucket man reached out to 12 Responds for help after his sister received a concerning message from the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA).

Bob Crook wrote: “My disabled sister applied for COVID-19 benefits in Massachusetts … she received benefits, and she returned to work in June. Now they sent her notice that she has to repay $9,804. I don’t understand why, and how they made the decision. Can you help?”

Crook said his sister has developmental disabilities and works at a grocery store across the border in Massachusetts. When the pandemic hit, he said the store cut its hours and his sister was unable to work, and she wasn’t eligible for regular unemployment insurance.

“She was part-time. She works from 3–9 in the evening,” he said. “They cut the hours to 6 o’clock, so they didn’t need her.”

Crook said he was able to secure COVID-19 unemployment assistance for his sister.

“Everything was going OK, she got her money, a total of $9,800,” he said.

When the store expanded its hours in June, Crook said his sister went back to work and he let the DUA know she no longer needed benefits by filling out the form online.

“‘Were you affected by COVID-19 this week?’ This time, the answer was no,” he recalled.

That’s why he was shocked when he later received an email saying “they want the $9,800 back.”

Crook said he failed to spot key documentation until he sent 12 News the paperwork which states, in part:

“If you fail to provide all requested documentation … DUA will determine you overpaid benefits and require you to repay all benefits previously received, even if you are no longer requesting Pandemic Unemployment Benefits Assistance.”

“They never told me,” Crook added. “They never said what documentation they were looking for. I never got that.”

After 12 Responds reached out to the DUA, the agency got in touch with Crook and found his address needed verification. He said that since he didn’t respond, the claim was canceled.

The issue has since been resolved.

12 Responds: Submit your financial or health question here »

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