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Missouri senators want forgiveness for overpaid unemployment benefits

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Thousands of Missourians have been overpaid in unemployment benefits during the pandemic and are now having a hard time paying some of it back.

During the first three months of the pandemic, about 600,000 Missourians filed for unemployment. The Labor Department says it is in contact with those who are being paid more, but those on the other side say they spend hours on hold or never get through.

Senator Doug Beck, D-St. Louis, said.

Since the pandemic began, 46,000 Missourians have been overpaid in unemployment benefits, totaling about $150,000. Over the summer, Governor Mike Parson’s administration authorized the state’s labor department to waive the federal portion.

“We sent out letters to people with overpayments from the federal part,” Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations legislative liaison Benjamin Terrell told the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday. . “We mailed them all and contacted them and sent out a form they could fill out. If they complete it and return it to us, and they qualify, federal collections will be exempt. “

He told the committee members; The part of the state that cannot be waived because there is no state statute is where the law sponsored by Beck and Senator Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, was introduced.

“It’s been frustrating for everyone and now what we’re seeing is that the retrofit is still going on, we’re seeing that you don’t need the same person to deal with your case,” Beck said. “They go from person to person, and they get different answers. “

Hough said both his and Beck’s office have received dozens of calls about overpayments, which is why their law will waive the requirement for Missoures to pay their share of the state and Streamline the waiver process.

Tom Chessman, a retired bus driver in the St. Louis, told the senators he had returned the overpayment to the state, and then filled out the form.

“About a month ago they sent me a check that included all the money,” said Chessman,

Chessman said in October 2021 he received a letter from the department telling him what he owes back since he was overpaid. In December, he was refunded.
But he was lucky.

“Others who applied with the same criteria were rejected,” said Ben Ford, a retired Teamsters Union member. “Sometimes our drivers get different reactions from different people they speak to at the same state office.”

He said some bus drivers are having their pay cut to pay back the state.

“Drivers are concerned if their home will be placed on a state lien on a property that happened to one of our motorists,” Ford said. “Lottery winners are withheld because of an unfair unemployment refund that happened to another of our drivers. Will their tax refund be kept by the state? This is happening to some of our drivers. ”

Last year, a similar bill for Hough and Beck was filed, but it didn’t cross the finish line. This year, Beck says the state has plenty of money to let these people keep the overpayment.

“Notices are not timely, so overall, I think it’s up to the department dealing with this matter, and not the fault of the applicants for these benefits who have been notified. from the very beginning that they were coming,” Beck said.

The Special School District of St. Louis Tracie Engelmeyer told the committee she owed $6,600.

“It’s very inconsistent with everything that’s going on and the way they tell people different things,” Engelmeyer said. “Of the 225 of us, some of us are fine, some of us are not, some of them have been reversed.”

She said her school district told her bus drivers would be eligible for unemployment benefits even if they were contracted. Engelmeyer then called the Department of Labor, which assured her she was eligible for unemployment benefits.

“She’s gone, you’ve been affected in no small way,” she said, adding, “You’re going to get $600 from the federal and I say it’s okay,” Engelmeyer told the committee, explaining the conversation. with her set. Now, she is one of thousands of people trying to understand what she owes and if she has to.

“I was just asking somehow, it was fixed,” Engelmeyer said.

Other lawmakers on the committee agreed to the law.

“I’m trying to find out, why are we punishing them?,” said Senator Karla May, D-St. Louis said.

Sen Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City said: “For the sake of consistency and a unified response, a clear policy and do the right thing and ensure that those who have gone through difficult times are not harmed. forced to make more sacrifices.” “This is the right thing to do.”

The committee’s chairman, Senator Dan Hegeman, said he believes the bill will be debated on the Senate floor but where it will go he does not know.

“I think it’s great that we bring it up and discuss it on the floor and the committee,” said Hegeman.

During the first year of the pandemic, the state paid out more than $5 billion in unemployment benefits.

When contacted on Friday, the Labor Department said that as of January 18, there had been about 38,800 waivers filed and of which 13,200 were approved and 18,300 denied.

The ministry said some of the main reasons for the refusal were failure to provide information and providing incorrect information. Another reason is failure to meet the standard of fairness and good conscience, meaning that the person declares that the refund will not require them to give up money or change their actions/choices in a negative way. extreme or not leading to their inability to provide basic needs.

One final reason could be that they filed the waiver too late. Once the form is received, it must be filled out and returned within 30 days of notification.

Hough’s law is Senate Bill 673 and Beck’s bill is Senate Bill 709.

https://fox2now.com/news/missouri/missouri-senators-want-to-forgive-overpaid-unemployment-benefits/ Missouri senators want forgiveness for overpaid unemployment benefits

Aila Slisco

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