Puerto Rico Labor secretary: $2.7 million in unwarranted unemployment aid returned
Police arrest 38 in connection to stolen Pandemic Unemployment Assistance checks
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Labor and Human Resources Department (PRLHD) Secretary Carlos J. Rivera Santiago announced Monday that, as of Aug. 7, some $2.7 million in unemployment payments were returned to the agency by people who did not qualify for them.
The amount includes $64,434 in payments returned by public employees who believed they qualified for unemployment during the Covid-19 emergency, Rivera said, noting that the agency received managers’ checks to refund such payments as well as uncashed unemployment checks.
Rivera said that “hundreds of citizens” began to return unemployment payments as a result of the agency’s efforts to inform through media outlets the eligibility requirements to qualify for them. He said that the agency has also been working with state and federal law-enforcement officials to crack down on criminal rings that have been using false identification cards to cash stolen or illegally obtained unemployment checks.
“The effective and correct communication of what the eligibility requirements should be has greatly achieved the return of the money,” he said in a ststement.
The Puerto Rico Police Department’s Bank Robbery Division as of Friday had made 38 arrests and recovered approximately $199,009.50 in unemployment checks, the PRLHD chief said. These cases involve persons who used false identification cards in order to cash Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) checks, he said.
The PUA program, created by the $2.2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides additional unemployment compensation to people who do not qualify for regular unemployment because they are self-employed, are contractors, homecare professionals, or have exhausted regular unemployment benefits amid the novel coronavirus epidemic. The program provided a supplemental weekly compensation of $600 until the end of July.
Rivera called on the general public to return unemployment payments they are not entitled to through the following channels:
1. Return the payment to the nearest local PRLHD office or deposit it in the mailbox of the office with a short letter indicating the nature of the return.
2. Mail the payment to the following address: Departamento del Trabajo y Recursos Humanos, Unidad de Pagos, PO Box 195540, San Juan P.R. 00919-5540.
3. If the unemployment check has already been cashed, the return of the money may be made by making out a money order or a managers’ check in the amount to be refunded and returned through the above-mentioned channels.
4. The money orders or managers’ checks must be made to the order of “Secretario de Hacienda” (Puerto Rico Treasury Secretary).