By Andrew Kennedy, CPR News | Hundreds — and possibly thousands — of unemployed Coloradans are being asked to repay some of the unemployment benefits they received from the government due to errors in their applications, and the issue is hitting gig workers especially hard.
State officials say the problem stems from human error combined with the rush to deploy a brand new unemployment program. They say they are bound by federal law to correct mistakes made by applicants, but they also are trying to clarify potentially confusing language on a state website.
Meanwhile, the mess has left some recipients with paltry benefits, major debt and no solutions. Adam Christopher Brill, 39, has seen his benefits drop to about $111 per week, and the state has told him he owes roughly $6,000 to fix an overpayment.
“I felt like they rushed the system to get out. They were under a lot of pressure. It’s now coming back to us as gig workers and self employed people,” said Brill, who drove for Uber before the pandemic.
The error was simple but devastating: When he was applying for benefits, Brill used the wrong figure from his tax forms, inadvertently leading the state to pay him too much. He thinks the mistake may be the result of misleading wording on the state’s application form for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the new federal benefits program for gig workers.
“I am somebody that has a high-functioning form of autism. Sometimes I process things a little differently. For even the general person, I think that would be confusing,” Brill said.
Brill requested benefits based on the five-figure amount he earned in paychecks from Uber in 2019. But PUA benefits are meant to be calculated from earnings after expenses. Since he had reported a net loss on his 2019 tax forms, his weekly benefits should have been hundreds of dollars smaller.
However, the state website told workers to submit their “business income or losses.” The word “income” commonly refers to revenues before expenses, which is what Brill arguably submitted. A more common phrase is “profits or losses.”
Read the whole story here – this could apply to working musicians as well: