Omaha man frustrated with demands to return unemployment funds

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 4:44 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Laid off by a car rental company when the pandemic hit 68-year-old Gary Bright says unemployment checks gave him hope. That dimmed when the Nebraska Department of Labor demanded it all back.

“What a big shock, I just don’t have it,” said Bright.

$8,400 between state and federal benefits.

“Well they shouldn’t have paid me in the beginning, I should never have received a check if I didn’t qualify. I was perfectly honest with them,” said Bright.

Bright says when he came to the office to apply for unemployment benefits, he gave honest answers and the staff approved his payments. Payments he’s now being ordered to repay.

Victor Lapuma, a labor attorney said, “This one they giveth and this one they take it away.”

Labor attorney Victor Lapuma hasn’t been able to find out why.

“By the way, there’s really no explanation, no explanation given just you’re not eligible, so I don’t understand it,” said Lapuma.

The veteran labor lawyer has another client who received an unemployment repayment demand.

“These clients are frightened I mean they’re not powerful people, they don’t have resources. I’ve never seen anything like this where months later they try to take the money back. "

Gary has a doctor’s note that underlying conditions prevent him from looking for another job. But that and other information he’s provided didn’t stop a demand for repayment.

“I feel like I’m a criminal or something. I didn’t do nothing wrong. I just lost my job,” said Bright.

Attempting to find out why $8,400 in unemployment must be repaid, the labor attorney and Bright both say the state has left them in the dark.

A statement from the Nebraska Department of Labor says, “By statute, all individuals wishing to receive unemployment benefits are required to be able and available for work.

Unless a claimant is attached to an employer with a fixed recall date, the claimant is required to engage in an active search for work. Individuals not attached to any employer are required to search for work.

A claimant must be willing to accept suitable work if offered or should provide a doctor’s note when filing for unemployment indicating that a physician has placed restrictions on the type of work that can be accepted. The note should explain what work the employee can perform. When it is determined that a claimant is not eligible or entitled to the unemployment benefits received, an overpayment is created. Claimants are responsible for repaying any benefits they were not eligible to receive regardless of fault. Nebraska law does not allow for the waiver of regular state unemployment benefits.”

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