On Your Side: Why 45,000 Missourians might not have to pay back unemployment overpayments during pandemic

Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 6:52 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - You might recall at the start of the pandemic, the Missouri Department of Labor overpaid $150 million in benefits. 45,000 Missourians were told they must pay back that money.

Lawmakers stopped collection efforts, but the session ended with no real resolution.

Two proposals are circulating in the Missouri Senate. If one becomes law, folks will not have to pay back the state.

One year ago, we told you about Stephanie San Paolo. In the spring of 2020, she was laid off because of the pandemic. For the first time, she filed for unemployment. She and thousands of others got letters from the Missouri Department of Labor saying they were overpaid and needed to send the money back. They’re not accused of cheating the system.

“When there’s no fraud on behalf of the individual, I believe the state should not be seeking payment from those individuals,” said State Senator Lincoln Hough. He filed this bill that would waive the repayment.

“When it’s the state’s fault, we shouldn’t have that heavy of a hand approach. My opinion is we should be in the business of customer service,” State Senator Hough said.

Ashley Reynolds asked Hough, “Can the state afford to waive this money?”

“We right now have a balance in our general revenue account of a little over $2.5 billion,” State Senator Hough responded. “That’s on top of all the federal money flowing into Missouri. Several billion dollars of infrastructure, sales tax growth, month after month. Yes, we can take care of this.”

Reynolds caught up with San Paolo.

“I think there’s so many of us who were in the boat of not understanding what we were supposed to do and how we were supposed to do it. There was no help, no assistance,” she said.

San Paolo appealed. No luck. Her tax refund went back to the state. If this bill becomes law, she should get a refund.

“That would be amazing. And it would certainly change my view of state government right now,” she added.

The bill requires folks to file an appeal. You can do that on the department of labor website. The bill is expected to go to committee next week.

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