KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri House Democrats are calling on Gov. Mike Parson to forgive state and federal unemployment overpayments.
Democrats held a virtual news conference Wednesday to address the issue. Tuesday, they received word from the Department of Labor that it will begin a process for eligible claimants to apply for a waiver for non-fraudulent, federal overpayments.
Rep. Peter Merideth, (D) District 80, said he is skeptical of the announcement, saying he's heard it before.
"We need to see that this is actually going to happen, and frankly we don't want to see another complicated, bureaucratic process that people have to fight through in order to get this done," Merideth said.
The Department of Labor mistakenly paid $148 million in unemployment benefits to nearly 46,000 people in 2020. $40 million was paid from state coffers and $108 million from federal programs.
41 Action News first reported on the issue in July 2020 when Missourians reported receiving notices saying they had been overpaid benefits due to no fault of their own and needed to pay the money back to the state.
The department said only 3% of the overpayment was fraudulent. Claimants affected have been receiving notices for months saying they need to pay back the money and the state can garnish wages, place liens on properties and take tax refunds.
In March 2021, 41 Action News reported that court records showed hundreds of pages of certificates of assessment filed against claimants for overpaid unemployment claims through Cole County Circuit Court.
The department announced it would halt collections while House Bill 1083 was being considered. The legislation would have waived the federal portion of the overpayments and allowed claimants to pay back the state portion in small, affordable payments.
The bill passed the Missouri House but not the Senate before the session ended.
On Tuesday, the Department of Labor announced the waiver process for claimants overpaid during weeks ending Feb. 8, 2020 through June 12, 2021. The department will begin collections on the state portion of overpayments in August and will notify claimants eligible for consideration in July about how they can apply for the waiver.
Merideth said the state's budget includes $48 million of federal money to cover the cost of the state portion.
Democrats plan on sending a letter to the governor Wednesday calling on him to waive the overpayments. They have also started a petition.