JEFFERSON CITY – Despite bipartisan efforts by Missouri lawmakers, the Department of Labor is still trying to recover reimbursement from citizens who have received excess unemployment benefits.
To bring attention back to the issue of unemployment reimbursement, House Democrats held a conference Wednesday morning on Zoom.
Representative Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, the ranking minority member of the House Budget Committee, chaired the conference.
Merideth said the Department of Labor “has announced (ed) that they will begin a process whereby people can apply for waivers for the federal portion of these unemployment overpayments.” This statement, Merideth said, was prompted by the conference announcing its meeting.
The reason behind the state’s claims is that the state made “some kind of mistake … and overpaid 46,000 Missourians,” Merideth said.
The overpayments totaled over $ 150 million in unemployment benefits.
Missouri residents affected by the claims were invited to share their experiences at the conference.
One of those speakers was Amy Minich from Lawson.
Minich was put on leave from her job at Ford Motor Company from March to May 2020. However, Minich was unable to return to work as she had to care for her 4-year-old daughter. Minich said her daughter “has breathing problems, bronchial problems and cannot go to a normal daycare”.
On the unemployment website, Minich found that “you may be out of work for childcare reasons” and still be entitled to benefits.
Minich continued to collect unemployment until August. It wasn’t until December that Minich learned she had an overpayment of $ 9,000.
“It immediately caused panic in my world; Because, how am I, you know, while this is going on? How will I pay my bills? What will we do if I have no incoming income?
For Minich, the appeal process is “boring and time consuming”.
“You are waiting for hours. You can no longer file an appeal online. They took away that ability. So you need to send documents that need to be faxed to a number. Then you wait. You don’t hear from anyone, you don’t know what’s going on, until you finally get a phone call that says oh, by the way, you have a hearing for an appeal, ”Minich said.
Minich’s appeal process was only brought forward because she was able to receive assistance from her Senator, Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, and her representative, Mark Ellebracht, D-Liberty.
Minich was able to get her first overpayment canceled, but when she filed for unemployment again in April, she received another overpayment notice.
“This time, instead of erasing it, they started taking my money. I didn’t ask, I didn’t know. I received a letter after the fact. So they’re already taking the money from me, ”Minich said.
Minich was able to resolve his situation, but says the Department of Labor still owes him more than $ 3,000.
Representative LaKeySha Bosley, D-St. Louis, expressed lawmakers’ frustration with Gov. Mike Parson for not waiving overpayments.
“I think it is a serious error in judgment on the part of the governor, the department, not to have done what they are supposed to do, to make these citizens constantly have to cope with the red tape.” said Bosley. “I don’t think the governor is doing his part. I don’t think the department is doing its part.
“The only people who are doing their part are the Missourians who voted for us and the Missourians who are counting on this help, who are counting on this help. ”
House Democrats have created a citizen-signable petition asking Parson to waive the overpayments.