COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Around 48,000 Ohioans were notified they received an overpayment of unemployment benefits during the pandemic and must repay the state, The Associated Press reported.
That’s about 6% of the nearly 800,000 Ohioans who have been paid regular unemployment benefits since the start of the pandemic in March, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
“To preserve the integrity of the program, federal and state law require states to seek reimbursement of any overpaid amounts resulting from claimant error,” said Bret Crow, a Job and Family services spokesperson.
In June, The Ohio Star reported that nearly 24,000 people who received unemployment benefits would have to pay the state back. ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall said there was nothing she could do about the overpayments because it’s a federal issue, not a state issue, according to News5Cleveland.
“Any overpayment has to be repaid, whether or not it was due to fraud or due to lagging wage information,” she said.
About 1.7 million Ohioans filed jobless claims during the pandemic, the AP said. The state has paid out $6.2 billion in state unemployment compensation to almost 800,000 people and distributed more than $5.4 billion in federal payments.
In most cases, the overpayments are the result of individuals not reporting or underreporting money they made during weeks they filed claims for, Crow said.
A smaller number of overpayments was the result of agency mistakes because of the huge number of claims during the pandemic. Overpayments as the result of a state error don’t have to be repaid.
Those who believe they don’t owe a repayment have three weeks to file an appeal. If overpayments aren’t paid back, the money could be taken from future benefits or a collections process could begin.
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The Associated Press wrote this story. Star News Network reporter Jason M. Reynolds contributed to this report. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist at outlets of all sizes.