Hearing examines unemployment benefit overpayments that state is asking to get paid back

Posted at 6:16 PM, Aug 11, 2021

LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — During the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans applied for unemployment benefits.

But over 25,000 of those that received money were told by the state that they paid too much and needed to pay back the money.

Senator Carol Blood of Bellevue seemed to use the hearing as a way to look at future legislative bills helping the Department of Labor process all these unemployment claims as well as help the folks that are forced to pay back some of the overpayments.

“We got calls by the dozens by people saying they were suddenly being told they were getting paid too much,” said Blood.

Blood put forward a resolution to examine the accuracy of overpayments made to Nebraska during the pandemic.

Commissioner of Labor John Albin said at the Wednesday hearing that of the roughly 298,000 Nebraskans that applied for unemployment benefits, over 27,000 were told by the state they overpaid.

“The people I sincerely talk to were not aware that they were being overpaid, they were just following the system and what they were told and were surprised later to find out that they owed money,” said Blood.

Recently, the department told those that overpaid they can apply for a waiver, thanks to federal law.

“They’re not in a position to pay it and the federal law allows those who apply for the waiver for them that overpayment to be waived,” said Albin.

That waiver pays back federal benefits, which with the additional $600 a week, added up to $15,000 to $20,000 for some people.

443 have so far applied, and so far the department is processing those waivers.

Blood asked Albin if any changes to state law could solve issues with overpayments and fraud. Albin recommended that the Unicameral pass a bill from this year that streamlines department processes.

Ann Mangiameli with Legal Aid of Nebraska suggested for them to have a way to waive the debts without an application process.

“Have a waiver process where it more robustly forgives those debts,” said Mangiameli.

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