>I would suggest that you work with someone to help you distill your thoughts into something that won't confuse those who will be hearing your story during the appeal.

Alas I don't have anybody. That's what I had to do everything myself and without experience...
You are not out in the cold here. If you will please allow me to interject my opinion, you are well spoken and quite capable of the level of expertise that is expected of a claimant. And in all the years that I did work with unemployment I very rarely saw anyone whose situation was improved by the intervention of an attorney. I have always said, attorneys are smart people and they can look at the unemployment laws. But very few of them have any more expertise in those laws and the whole agency procedures than a layman. Because frankly, it doesn't pay much at all, and what pittance of money the attorney would get from a case isn't worth becoming an expert. The claimant is expected to be inexperienced. Just listen to what they ask you and answer as honestly as you can. Just the facts, no personal extras. They have certain things they are looking for, and their questions will go in this direction. If you try to throw in things that are NOT helpful, they'll tell you, they won't let you ramble. There's no liklihood you'll "say the wrong thing" and hang yourself unless you're really dumb! As I said, you did not set out to commit fraud.

During the pandemic I have encountered many people who were having problems with their claim. The one I mentioned earlier, who had sent in very confusing proofs and inadequate evidence of self employment comes to mind. When she allowed me to look at her claim, I opened the screen and found 35 unopened emails from the agency requesting more information, explaining what they needed, and finally, since she never provided the requested information, declaring her ineligibile and overpaid. At which point, the drama began! At her hearing she described her situation in detail to a pleasant young man about her grandchildren's age, and was eventually approved and backpaid.

They are not in business to hang you. As I said, your situation IS NOT unusual or particularly skeevy. They see all sorts of things, thousands of situations, you have no idea of the volume we are talking about. I will guess that a whole lot of people have filed and received claims for self-employment affected by the pandemic and now are having trouble verifying it.

And I also encountered another person who was so anxious that they kept calling and kept calling the agency, as well as trying to hire attorneys and talking to all sorts of people on line after being told they had been found ineligible and been overpaid by xxxx dollars. Of course, each time, they talked to someone different after waiting for hours and heard something slightly different. The regular claims workers are not involved with adjudication and are not very helpful about information about overpayment collection.

And this was in California, by the way. After one of the calls, she received another call, though she had not yet had her hearing, telling her that she was going to have to pay back this certain amount, and she could begin by sending in a cash payment to this certain post office box. Thankfully, she recognized the voice as the worker she had tried to ask questions to the week before. She reported this to the agency with my encouragement. Her overpayment was resolved in her favor, after all this anxiety and over-reaction.

The agency has certain definite procedures they follow. As I have said, if you ultimately end up with an overpayment, it will be a long time from now after at least two appeals. At this point, in CA, you will be able to request a waiver based on your income. There will not likely be any penalties involved. These issues must be adjudicated.

And if you are required to set up a repayment plan it will be very lenient and flexible. California is considered a very "employee friendly state." This will not change simply because of the pandemic. They are used to dealing with people who are, duh, unemployed, and some of those people do not have the means to rapidly and completely repay the money, even if they've committed blatant fraud.

It is pretty easy when you are conducting a hearing to tell who may have acted from a desire to cheat the system and who is genuinely confused or mixed up about what they were supposed to have done or what it takes to qualify. One of the bell ringers is those who lawyer up and refuse to cooperate with the appeals process. While this is the thing you would want to do if accused of a crime, I repeat, this is an agency. They are not the criminal justice system and would not treat you as such.

Let us know when you have a hearing scheduled and we will try to advise you more. Meantime, pay your taxes, do not worry about having to come up with a lump sum to repay this unemployment money anytime soon at all.