HARRISBURG — In a first-of-its-kind program in the country, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry is offering amnesty to individuals and employers who owe money to the state’s unemployment compensation trust fund.
The amnesty runs from June 1 through Aug. 31 and waives a portion of the interest and penalties owed by individuals who received payments up to June 30, 2012 and employers who owe contributions up to April 30 of last year.
Department Secretary Julia Hearthway announced the program Thursday at the Philadelphia Free Library. “This opportunity has never been presented in our state, or anywhere in the United States,” Hearthway said in a prepared statement.
She asked those who owe money to the trust fund “to do the right thing and pay back what they owe.”
Failure to pay back can cause problems with a person’s credit, future unemployment compensation claims and “potentially the law,” Hearthway said.
According to the department, the state is owed $356 million by individuals who were overpaid because they misrepresented the facts in their claim or through a no-fault error on their part. Employers owed $257 million. The department was not able to provide a breakdown of funds owed by county.
The money collected during the amnesty will be deposited in the trust fund in order to keep it solvent and to pay for future benefits.
The department will notify more than 130,000 people and about 50,000 employers by letter about the program and its specifics. They have previously been notified about money owed to the trust fund.
Cases that have not been satisfied during the amnesty will be investigated by the department’s Office of Integrity.