State requests $27K from Omaha woman after accidentally overpaying unemployment benefits

Published: Apr. 23, 2021 at 7:07 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 24, 2021 at 8:09 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - An Omaha-area woman is scrambling for answers after receiving a notice from the Department of Labor on Thursday telling her she owes them $27,000.

“It’s super frustrating and I’m in a panic,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous.

“I’m never going to be able to pay this. How did this happen? How could a mistake this big happen?”

At the start of the COVID-19 crisis last year, she applied for pandemic-related unemployment assistance, PUA, from the state.

She says she applied each week and was certified each week for payments related to one claim.

But Thursday, after logging on to her account, she was shocked to find a notification from the department saying they accidentally overpaid her.

The letter reads: Per review of your Unemployment Claim(s), you were paid for benefit week ending 4/4/2020-10/3/2020 under two claim shells. You may only have eligibility under one claim shell for any benefit week. BWE 4/4/2020-10/3/2020 was filed and paid in error on the PUA claim shell. This determination may have created an overpayment, which you will be liable to repay.

However, the woman says she only applied for one claim each week.

“There was just one deposit, I wasn’t getting multiple deposits, you know there wasn’t two claims paying out, it was just the one. They didn’t give me much clarity.”

On her overpayment summary on her NEworks account, the overpaid amount sits at $27,163.00 which was paid out of 38 weeks. The outstanding balance sits at $26,114.00.

Throughout the year, she says she was told by the department of labor not to contact them - likely due to the high volume of calls they were getting - and that they would contact her if any issues with her payments arose.

“Nobody reached out to me,” she says. “It’s been a year and now I’m getting a notice that I owe $27,000. That’s shocking.”

6 News reached out to the Department of Labor, who says overpayments do happen, but large amounts like this are rare.

In a statement, the department offers some promising news for those this has happened to. It reads:

Benefit overpayment determinations can be appealed. Instructions are printed on the notice. If an appeal is filed on time, a hearing is scheduled. The person conducting the hearing issues a decision regarding the appeal. If the decision regarding an overpayment is in the claimant’s favor, the overpayment is canceled and the claimant is not required to pay back the benefits. If the claimant is still dissatisfied with the decision, they can appeal the decision to the District Court.

NDOL will soon be announcing an overpayment waiver process for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Under current federal legislation, states are permitted to waive an overpayment in the event the overpayment was established through no fault of the claimant and the recovery of the overpayment would be against equity and good conscience. Claimants will be notified when the waiver application form is available.

The department also says that those who have experienced an overpayment notice should file an appeal immediately and keep their contact information up-to-date on their NEworks website in case they are contacted.

However, the woman says this isn’t what the department told her when she got in contact with them.

“They told me I can file an appeal within 20 days. They didn’t explain it they just said you can appeal it.”

The Department of Labor tells 6 News, as well as the woman, that they aren’t certain how long the appeal process through them will take.

So for now, she waits. Hopeful she doesn’t have a $27,000 hit after an already emotionally and financially challenging year.

“It’s not through my fault and if this is happening to other people it’s not their fault either.”

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