Beginning the final week of May, the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions began issuing notice of overpayment letters to recipients of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor requires that the Department issue letters when Unemployment Insurance (UI) fraud is suspected. As such, the letter uses strong language that suggests adverse actions are going to be taken against the claimant and these notices are automatically generated by our Tax & Claims System. Because this process is automated, several received the letter for reasons that do not rise to the level of intentional fraud. For example, PUA claimants who did not provide 2019 tax documents received the notification. The notices were also generated for PUA claimants who may have mistakenly listed an income total that varied from their tax documents.
On behalf of the agency, I sincerely apologize that the notices caused concern and frustration at an already stressful time. To provide clarification on what claimants need to do next, we are sending out direct communication that provides guidance on how individuals can provide the Department with the information necessary to clear any pending issues or alleviate a hold on their claim. Although notices are necessary and required to avoid a misuse of taxpayer resources, where appropriate, we can supplement and/or replace them with clarifying information that helps claimants comply with all aspects of UI requirements.
Our work over the past several months has always been focused on getting New Mexicans the benefits and resources to which they are entitled as quickly as we can. But we can always do better and are committed to begin an examination of how we can communicate more clearly and effectively to New Mexicans in this troubling time.
Secretary, New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions