Thune introduces legislation aimed at reducing fraud potential in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
WASHINGTON — South Dakota Senator John Thune, along with two other members of the Senate Committee on Finance, Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), introduced the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Eligibility Clarification Act on Monday in an effort to incentivize individuals to return to the workforce.
The legislation would require the Department of Labor to rescind recently-issued guidance that expanded PUA eligibility and would revoke their ability to expand such eligibility in the future.
“As Americans continue to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and as businesses reopen to full capacity, we must ensure that individuals being provided the opportunity to return to the workforce are getting back to work,” Thune said. “By rescinding this guidance, this bill would ensure that states can continue to implement their own return-to-work requirements, which South Dakota has done effectively throughout the pandemic, yet allow state workforce agencies to continue to provide PUA compensation to those individuals who truly require the assistance.”
Sen. Crapo said he believes that expanding Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to individuals who have already been receiving regular unemployment assistance allows people to “game the system” and refuse to return to safe workplaces.
The Department of Labor issued guidance on February 25 that authorizes people receiving unemployment assistance to become eligible for PUA if they refuse an offer to work (or return to work) because of certain health concerns.
Thune and other Senate colleagues sent a letter to the DOL back in March raising concerns about the new guidance, specifically that it allows individuals to self-certify for PUA if they believe their workplace is “not in compliance with local, state, or national health and safety standards directly related to COVID-19,” opening up the potential for fraudulent claims.
The PUA Eligibility Clarification Act would also ensure that anyone who received PUA benefits under the February 25 guidance would not need to repay those amounts.