No general exemption for unemployment overpayments – NBC Connecticut
The Acting Department of Labor commissioner on Monday informed Connecticut lawmakers that her agency is prohibited by federal and state law from granting a blanket waiver to thousands of workers who are now being billed for overpaying their allowances. unemployment during the pandemic.
Dante Bartolomeo told members of the General Assembly’s credits and labor committees that his agency is required by the US Department of Labor to review all overpayments on a case-by-case basis and recover the money. Connecticut law, however, allows people with certain extenuating circumstances to apply for an individual waiver from the state, which it has urged affected claimants to do.
“The problem is, this is a federal issue that the federal government and the federal delegation could change, if they wanted to, which we are allowed to do and not,” she said. “But unfortunately, it is not at the state level. We are not in a position to make these changes.”
Many Connecticut lawmakers have called on the agency to somehow waive overpayments charged to workers who lost their jobs during the pandemic, arguing that it is unfair to demand money of people who have not committed fraud and continue to struggle financially.
"It was something that was built and designed for an unusual circumstance. We were trying to keep people out of the water, ” said Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, co-chair of the credits committee. “Then we go back and say, ‘We shouldn’t have given you that money.’ But people were trying to survive. “
In September, when this issue was first raised, lawmakers suggested it would cost between $ 6 million and $ 10 million to cover overpayments. However, according to the State Department of Labor, this is a moving average and the cost is at least $ 30 million, a figure that is expected to rise as the agency continues to review the most. 1.5 million unemployment claims filed since March 13, 2020 for state, federal benefits and extended benefits.
So far, the agency has determined that about 2% of claims, which represent about 13,000 people, are overpayments under state unemployment programs, extended benefits and compensation programs. emergency in the event of a pandemic. These numbers are expected to increase as more claims are reviewed and after the state receives reports of other benefit programs for the unemployed.
A spokesperson for the agency said it could take up to six to eight years to finally sort out the repayment problem, given the potential for recourse and long repayment plans. Some workers who were overpaid during the 2008 recession are still repaying their unemployment benefits.
Bartolomeo said overpayments occurred this time around for a number of reasons. While there have been cases of fraud, she said there were also cases of non-fraudulent overpayments, such as when an employer may have appealed an unemployment claim after the worker has already been paid. She said there had also been cases of people making a mistake when filing their application, or of a Ministry of Labor official entering data incorrectly.