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Feds Say States Have Up To A Year To Return Money They Demanded Back From Unemployment Overpayments That Were States’ Fault; Some Illinoisans Say That’s Too Long To Wait

CHICAGO (CBS) — If the state made a mistake and started taking money from your unemployment benefits to make up for it, the federal government says they have up to a year to pay that money back.

That is just part of the brand-new guidance for unemployment offices across the country, directly from the U.S. Department of Labor.

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It is also a long time to wait for money, and as CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported Thursday, it is a timeline about which people are just learning now. They were overpaid and returned money to the State of Illinois, and now they say they are not quite sure they will hold on that long for their refunds.

Matthew Wade just got a bill for $13,624 in the mail from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The state said he was overpaid unemployment benefits.

“I don’t have $13,000 to pay back,” Wade said.

He works in large scale events for a hotel chain, and he is still furloughed right now because of the pandemic. But told us he is confident he didn’t make a mistake when applying for benefits.

“I just hope that I don’t have to have to pay for someone else’s mistake,” Wade said.

So while he waits for the state to get back to him, he is hopeful he is one of thousands eligible for an overpayment waiver.

“I don’t know how I’m going to provide for my family,” Wade said.

The waivers were made possible through federal relief, in cases where it was not a person’s fault they were overpaid benefits. That person can be refunded on payments made back to the state or money docked from existing benefits.

But a new update from the U.S. Department of Labor acknowledges the timeline on those refunds could be up to a year.

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“I also don’t necessarily have a year to wait for that to happen,” Wade said.

The update mentions flexibility afforded to state unemployment departments, across the country, when dealing with these issues and refunds. So we asked Illinois Department of Employment Security what that looks like here, and
if their timeline matches this one – will it take them a year for people here to see refunds?

We know people want answers, with several reaching us about these issues in just the past couple days.

Late Thursday, there were no direct answers to their questions. But IDES spokeswoman Rebecca Cisco did issue this statement:

“IDES continues to work with claimants who have requested an overpayment waiver and the process by which refunds will be issued as those waivers are approved. The guidance for this process has evolved since the implementation of the CARES Act last year.

“The new, updated guidance from USDOL was just released yesterday. Illinois and other states are in the process of working with USDOL to better understand what this means for claimants with overpayments.”

We will check back with the IDES when they have had time to figure that out.

CBS 2 is committing to Working For Chicago, connecting you every day with the information you or a loved one might need about the jobs market, and helping you remove roadblocks to getting back to work.

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We’ll keep uncovering information every day to help this community get back to work, until the job crisis passes. CBS 2 has several helpful items right here on our website, including a look at specific companies that are hiring, and information from the state about the best way to get through to file for unemployment benefits in the meantime.

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