Feds slow to help NC recoup jobless benefits paid to furloughed workers
Posted March 5, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — Dozens of federal workers who received unemployment benefits from North Carolina during the partial government shutdown in October haven't repaid the money, and the federal government isn't helping the state reclaim it.
Assistant Commerce Secretary Dale Folwell, head of the state Division of Employment Security, told a legislative committee Wednesday that 88 furloughed workers in North Carolina filed for unemployment during the shutdown. Because Congress voted to pay for federal employees for the time they missed during the shutdown, those benefits should be repaid, he said.
Federal law requires the state to obtain salary information from an employer before issuing a notice of overpayment to someone who has received jobless benefits, Folwell said. The trouble is, federal agencies aren't responding to state requests for the information.
"There is no more egregious group that has not responded to our agency than the federal government," he said, noting the 40 percent of private-sector employers in the state also fail to provide such information. "We have called them. We have written them. We have emailed them."
Folwell wrote to each of the 88 people, telling them they weren't entitled to keep the jobless benefits they received, and 49 of them sent back a total of $16,778. The remaining 39 workers still owe $18,114 combined, he said.
Other states are in a similar bind, and some have decided to stop trying to obtain the money, which would revert to the federal government anyway.
"If they won't help me collect their own money, I just don't know what else to do," Folwell said, adding that the state isn't being reimbursed for its time and effort.
Still, the Division of Employment Security plans to send a second letter to the remaining 39 federal workers, he said.