HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Nearly 30,000 Connecticut residents who received COVID-19 pandemic unemployment benefits in the last year and a half were overpaid and now they’re getting letters telling them some of it has to be paid back.
State Sen. Jorge Cabrera (D) said those who were overpaid are getting letters, “asking them to pay, in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars for money they’ve already spent to make it through this pandemic.”
It’s estimated nearly $9 million is at stake here.
Here’s how it happened: Back in early 2020, the state shutdown, folks filed unemployment claims with the Department of Labor (DOL), and the checks the DOL sent were too big. Now, the government is coming to collect.
“We’re talking about poor hardworking people who are just trying to get by in a crisis,” said State Sen. Julie Kushner (D).
Rep. Robin Porter (D) added, “We have the resources guys, let’s figure out how to make this happen, and how to make these people whole. This should be the last thing that they should have to worry about.”
To complicate matters more, the state’s DOL uncovered more than 100,000 cases of fraud and they’re busy tracking down thieves.
State Sen. Kushner said, “We have no mercy for those folks. They should pay every penny back.”
But for the honest folks, lawmakers stress they should file a waiver. They could be forgiven for the overpayment. The big question now is how will the state help these people? The answer is not yet clear.
Porter said, “We understand the intricacies of this system and this process and how the state and the feds work together. And from there we look at what will work and what will not.”
The DOL released a statement Thursday saying of the situation, “As we have since the beginning of the pandemic, CTDOL continues to work closely with our state and federal partners. We couldn’t agree more that this pandemic has damaged our workforce and our business community; it’s one of the reasons we applaud Governor Lamont’s decision to ensure that the Connecticut workforce had access to all the federal benefits available and right up to the federal deadline for eligibility. All labor agencies are required to follow state and federal law when it comes to administering unemployment programs and stewarding the Trust Fund; we report on that data frequently.”