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Future of Missouri unemployment overpayments remains unknown

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Posted at 6:59 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 19:59:48-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  — Questions remain for thousands of Missourians told they owe back their unemployment benefits after being paid in error.

41 Action News first reported this issue in July 2020. More than 45,000 unemployment claimants received notices from the Missouri Department of Labor.

It's been a long road to get answers for the claimants 41 Action News has spoken with during the course of the last year.

A bill in the Missouri House gave those affected some hope. House Bill 1083 would have waived the federal portion of the overpayments, which made up about 75% of the money, and allowed people to pay back the state portion in small, affordable amounts.

However, the bill never passed the legislature.

State Rep. J. Eggleston, (R) Maysville, the bill's sponsor, said there could be several different outcomes.

One being, the department could lift its current pause on the collections process and try to make people pay both the state and federal portions back.

"Or they could just make them pay back the state portion affordably but put in a waiver process for waving the federal portion," Eggleston said.

A third option would be completing what was planned in the legislation, which would waive the state and federal portions and do some modifications for future unemployment payments regarding the number of weeks someone can receive benefits depending on what the current unemployment rate is.

Moving forward with that option would take legislative action, which would have to be taken up in a special session.

He's not sure what the department will end up doing.

"I’ve asked them that before they make anything public that because I’ve been so close to the issue if they would please keep me in the loop and let me know, there are pros and cons to each of those," Eggleston said.

41 Action News received this response from a department spokesperson when asked what might come next:

"We don’t have anything to share at this time. We are examining the options available and will provide notice to affected claimants widely should the state begin collections processes."
Missouri Department of Labor

Eggleston said adding in the modifications of the number of weeks people can receive unemployment benefits to the bill was agreed upon by democrat and republican leaders in the Senate.

The bill is one that's been in the legislature for several years. It was passed during Governor Jay Nixon's administration. Nixon vetoed it and the House and Senate overturned that veto. However, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled those overturns happened too far apart to count.

"For the last several years we’ve been trying to get that fixed," Eggleston said. "Time ran out and none of that got done."

As some affected claimants wait to see how and if the issue will get resolved, others are beginning to see success through the appeals process.

Kansas City resident Jerome Marshall said his second appeal was recently won. He received a letter saying he no longer owed back the overpaid money.

"It was a long year and a half with a large lump sum over my head that I didn’t know what was going to happen," Marshall said.

Marshall has been stressing about the thousands of dollars and said it has taken a toll on his mental health. He's relieved to have the situation over with.

"It feels phenomenal," Marshall said. "It took a lot out of me because I was a full-time student and full-time worker at that point and it was just a lot to be worrying about."

He's encouraging others in the same boat not to give up and to focus on the appeals process rather than waiting for the issue to get resolved.

"You got a stick with it, don’t be afraid, make sure you do your appeal, make sure you are thorough with your appeal," Marshall said. "Just fight it, don’t give up and go the easy route."