MO Bills Would Provide Relief to Recipients Of Unemployment Overpayments
During the pandemic, the Missouri Department of Labor paid out too much unemployment compensation to more than 45,000 residents, and two bills before the Legislature, Senate Bill 673 and Senate Bill 709, seek to stop the state from garnishing wages to get the funds back.
Erin Carroll, a teacher who lost her job in 2020 and started collecting unemployment in November, said in January 2021, she started receiving more money suddenly, and then the week of Christmas, she received a letter saying she owes the state $2,500.
"They listed the dates and what the money that I wasn't entitled to," Carroll recounted. "They said I was not entitled to this money, you need to pay it back. If you don't pay it back, or start doing a payment plan, we're gonna start garnishing your wages."
Carroll explained the first week of this month, she received a second letter, saying she now owed $5,000.
Last summer, Gov. Mike Parson allowed the Department to waive the federal portion of the overpayments if the recipient fills out a form, but not the state portion, the gap the bill's sponsors said the legislation would fill.
Advocates for stopping the collection of these payments say residents should not be punished for an error by the state. Carroll pointed out when she started receiving more money last January, she did not know why, but thought it was on purpose because of COVID.
"I just kept hearing like, oh, people who are collecting unemployment, like they're getting this COVID relief money," Carroll stated. "I didn't change my application. I just started getting more money."
Missouri is not the only state where unemployment overpayments were an issue during the pandemic, and the U.S. Department of Labor last year urged states to exercise flexibility in waiving recovery of the payments.
Missouri News Service is a partner with KRCU Public Radio.