Local News

ESC backs off on collecting overpayments of jobless benefits

Posted September 30, 2010

— The state Employment Security Commission said Thursday that it will work with the federal government in hopes of allowing thousands of unemployed North Carolina residents keep $28 million in jobless benefits that was mistakenly paid to them earlier this year.

A computer programming error led to overpayments to about 38,000 people receiving a second year of benefits, ESC officials said. The mistakes occurred in checks issued from January through mid-May, when an internal audit caught the problem.

The agency began sending letters to people last week to inform them of the errors and to detail how much they might owe. ESC Deputy Chairman David Clegg said many of the people receiving letters would end up owing nothing, and about 15 percent were underpaid and would be eligible to receive more money.

Many unemployed residents, however, were incensed when the ESC began cutting their weekly benefit checks in half to recoup the money mistakenly paid out earlier.

Raleigh resident Tammy Lee said the ESC stopped sending her benefit checks altogether.

"I had no warning that I was getting nothing," said Lee, who was laid off from her sales job in February 2009. "I'm in a constant state of panic."

Clegg said officials had to address the issue while the people affected were still receiving benefits.

Lee said she became even more upset this week when the ESC sent her two letters: One said she was no longer eligible for benefits while the second said she remains eligible.

"When you say you have these letters, they don't even want to talk to you. They transfer you," she said.

Lawmakers, unemployed want answers in jobless benefits error Jobless might have to repay wrongly issued benefits

ESC officials issued a statement late Thursday, saying they had worked out a plan with Gov. Beverly Perdue and U.S. Department of Labor Assistant Secretary Jane Oates to waive repayment of the overpayments, if possible.

ESC Chairwoman Lynn Holmes plans to issue an order waiving repayment, and she will ask Perdue to issue a similar executive order, if required by the federal government.

All claims still need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine if they're eligible for a waiver, the statement said.

ESC officials declined to answer questions about the plan, including how the state would repay the $28 million owed to the government and whether the money already taken from people's benefits checks would be returned.

"I sincerely apologize for the confusion and inconvenience caused to our citizens over this issue,” Holmes said in the statement. “I could have done a better job communicating this error, and the resolution of the error, to our beneficiaries. I have instructed the ESC staff to work diligently to correct this problem and make sure every claim is handled fairly and accurately.”

The agency plans to keep its phone lines open late and to provide better information to people who have questions about the issue, officials said.

Officials are still investigating to determine the source of the error that led to the overpayments. The technicalities of unemployment extensions granted by Congress and the heavy volume of people in the system contributed to the problem, Clegg said.

"I'm angry. I think somebody needs to be held accountable for this," Lee said. "I kind of feel like I'm a hamster in one of those wheels that I can't get off."

167 Comments

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  • mtnmama Oct 1, 6:10 p.m.

    think..enjoy your family. For the record, I did not support the furloughs. I am fed up with all the correption in this state & nation...people getting special consideration, fat, unnearned paychecks while some folks truly struggle. I also don't approve of people taking UE but cheating the system...it hurts people like me who need it. But it's the same situation w/things like disability, food stamps, and even insurance. But what can you do? Is it fair to deny everyone food stamps, or insurance, etc.? No. A few cast the rest of us in bad light & we have the right to defend ourselves. As for our government & politicians..U are right. they all need to go. Burr sent me a letter saying he had voted FOR UE extensions. He did not. His voting record is public. He lied to me. I voted f 4 him b4 but no more. He lied to me. I will not help him get reelected. He's the tip of the iceberg. Voting is about the only power we have & it's not much, but if everyone did, things might chg.

  • Adelinthe Oct 1, 6:09 p.m.

    thinkb4uspeakplz - "I just dont think EVERYBODY is doing what they can!!! Some yes, most maybe...EVERYBODY...ummmm NO!!!!!"

    Then let's not treat everyone like a not.

    God bless.

    RB

  • Adelinthe Oct 1, 6:07 p.m.

    thinkb4 - "...if we could rid it of the deadbeats then this entire blog would be unnecessary!"

    This story and it's blog wasn't about the deadbeats to begin with, some took it that direction.

    In truth, in today's job market, the number deadbeats on unemployment aren't as numerous as they use to be.

    The number of good smart talented people are.

    Welfare on the other hand, but that's a different story, different blog.

    God bless.

    RB

  • mtnmama Oct 1, 5:59 p.m.

    Thanks, Dartman. I was aware of this & had posted a similar explanation on another thread that while the formula ESC used was 2X, it should have been 6X...thus allowing more to get benes than should have. Even ESC did not realize their mistake, so it really is unfair to say folks were wrong or dishonest in taking the benes or should have known. That simply is not the case. The media has done a TERRIBLE job of reporting the specific minutia of this problem. If they had, perhaps people would not bash so hard.

  • thinkb4uspeakplz Oct 1, 5:51 p.m.

    mtnmama, you are for whom the program was meant and if we could rid it of the deadbeats then this entire blog would be unnecessary! Good luck! Now I MUST go spend time with my family! Goodnight all!!!

  • thinkb4uspeakplz Oct 1, 5:47 p.m.

    TG, I truly am sorry about the things you have lost! I hope you and your family can recover. I didnt mean to offend the people who like me are trying...I just get sick of sharing space with people who complain, draw a check and never hold themselves accountable!

  • Dartman1955 Oct 1, 5:47 p.m.

    An ESC agent explained that the issue behind this problem is much different than what is presented in the media and being discussed on this and other forums. It seems to involve those who are in the second year of UI. At the beginning of the year those entering the second year of UI benefits were wrongly started on a new claim instead of using the original claim from last year.
    This forced the system to use a shorter base wage period than the original claim. Later in the year the ESC says that the requirement is no longer met for meeting a minimum insured wage with the shortened wage base period and benefits will be exhausted. If done correctly all beneficiaries should have been on their original claim and would have been paid benefits accordingly using the original base wage period.
    Unfortunately the explanations from the ESC as reported in the media are misleading. You are entitled to those benefits paid thus far depending which tier from your original claim you are in.

  • mtnmama Oct 1, 5:44 p.m.

    thinkb4...so you are looking too, so you MUST know the difficulty we encounter. U don't mention your age but ( bet the higher it is the longer U have been and will be looking. U are lucky that U don't have to get UE..either U managed your $$ extremely well or U have some other help w/shelter or maybe a spouse who works. Not all of us are so fortunate. I lost my job & had to deal with cancer...wiped me out. Would probably wipe out many, so please don;t assume to know why people MUST depend on UE for help.

  • thinkb4uspeakplz Oct 1, 5:44 p.m.

    mtnmama...if I hurt you or anyone's feelings that is actively looking for a job...any job...then I do apologize. My history in hiring may make me somewhat cynical and todays' politicians make me want to vomit! However, I was only stating my belief that if we allow Perdue to excuse the debt them we allow her to buy people's morals. I actually do agree with REB RB...tell them what they owe, set up a plan to recover...but when you just excuse the debt after furloughing my state employeed spouse last years...well that just ticks me to NOOOOOOO end. How dare her take money from me to balance her budget and just excuse the overpayment for the sake of votes and that is what it is for. Make no mistake she doesnt personally care about us, the unemployeed. She cares about her career. Her actions have shown that. I wish you much luck with your job hunt and if I were in a position to hire, it would be people like you I would love to talk to. I just really believe that we cant just ignore this $!

  • thinkb4uspeakplz Oct 1, 5:38 p.m.

    There is a need for substitue teachers! When my job was eliminated in August, I immediately took the class and started the volunteer hours to get started. Doesnt pay very well but its better than nothing...and its with children, whom I love! Are most of you gasping right now...lol. Just b/c I am outspoken and realize that there are SOME people out there who have settled for the crutch doesnt mean that I am not a good person with high morals. And just because I dont end every comment with God Bless doesnt mean I dont wish and want the best for everybody...I do. I just dont think EVERYBODY is doing what they can!!! Some yes, most maybe...EVERYBODY...ummmm NO!!!!!

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