Local News

Perdue orders ESC to forgive overpayments of jobless benefits

Posted October 1, 2010

— Gov. Beverly Perdue on Friday ordered the state Employment Security Commission to stop docking unemployed North Carolina residents for jobless benefits that they mistakenly received this year.

"I continue to believe that people who are receiving unemployment benefits and are living on $250 a week cannot afford to have a repayment program," Perdue said.

The governor said the ESC should waive all overpayments, halt deductions from people's weekly benefit checks and not cash any checks people have sent in to repay what they owed the state.

A computer programming error led to overpayments to about 38,000 people receiving a second year of benefits, according to ESC officials. 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.

Perdue stepped in to negotiate a deal between the ESC and the U.S. Department of Labor to resolve the overpayments issue. ESC officials said they still need to work out a plan to repay the money to the federal government.

"We are going to do whatever it is that is legal to provide our folks with a waiver and whatever it is that I can do to make sure that nobody has to hold themselves accountable for that $28 million," Perdue said.

Employment Security Commission building ESC to stop docking jobless benefits, make refunds

ESC Chairwoman Lynn Holmes said that the agency also is figuring out how to refund people who already had money deducted from their checks. Each claim needs to be reviewed individually, officials said.

"The ESC has worked diligently to correct this error,” Homes said in a statement. “The good news is that claimants affected by the overpayment will no longer have money taken out of their weekly benefits.”

Many people complained that the ESC offered poor and confusing explanations about what happened in the situation.

Holmes acknowledged Thursday that communication needed to be improved, but this wasn't the first time the ESC has been criticized for being slow to respond to questions.

Perdue said it's too early to say whether any changes need to be made at the agency.

"We are continuing to work through how it happened (and) what happened," she said. "Before I make any determination about personnel, my first job is to get the whole situation resolved."

A list of common questions about the overpayments issue is expected to be posted on the ESC website by Friday night, and the agency also is keeping its phone lines open until 8 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends to answer questions. The agency can be reached toll-free at 888-737-0259.

60 Comments

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  • Big Mike Oct 4, 3:11 p.m.

    My two brother in laws were laid off from their jobs...one for over almost a year after 20+ yrs with his company, and the other after 3+. He was told at a recent interview, he is over qualified for the job he applied for....so if our state has screwed up and overpaid some..too bad too sad.....I hope those who receive the additional monies of mine have made the most of it.....I'd rather give it to them than the wasteful spender of our state government...at least somehow I'm keeping it in the family.

  • mkg1047 Oct 4, 1:54 p.m.

    Daisy... are you currently unemployed? If not, I sincerely hope you will not have to experience the hardships that many of us unemployed have had to experience. We did not set the limits on the amount of monies we were eligible to receive...this is set by the corporations who paid into the unemployment fund governed by the state. So, before anyone passes judgement on those of us who are unemployed, please give us some consideration. It is not our responsibility to pay back monies that were the mistake of the ESC. This is not taxpayers money and we are NOT a charity case. We worked many, many years and wish we were not having to draw unemployment.

  • daisy Oct 4, 12:44 p.m.

    Why wouldn't people have to pay back what was overpaid!!! People on unemployment who got extra money should have to give it back. This is not a charity program.

  • JustAGuyInNC Oct 4, 11:33 a.m.

    The governor's gotta try to get re-elected somehow.

  • gingerlynn Oct 4, 11:24 a.m.

    Take it out of their tax returns next year if they are due a refund. Oh, that would mean someone would have to do a CALCULATION correctly, nevermind.

  • Bree Oct 4, 11:21 a.m.

    Remember, the government cannot give anything to anyone that they have not first taken away from someone else. That's just a fact!

  • computer trainer Oct 4, 11:08 a.m.

    joewalsh, and anyone else who thinks that the checks were bigger. THEY WERE NOT! This has been explained MANY times. THe checks were the same. The calculation that authorized the checks was incorrect from the beginning.

  • MDL33 Oct 4, 10:59 a.m.

    Hey!!!!!!! thats my money, will you forgive any taxes I may owe in April?

  • joewalsh Oct 4, 10:55 a.m.

    So lets see this only happened to people already on unemployment so suddenly these people think I get more money because i have been unemployed for over a year??? Come on they should have known something was up. You don';t get raises from unemployment. The people are at fault and should return the money how dare this one term governor simply say let them keep it? This that have not been over payed are now owed the same over payment. Why should one get it but not all?

  • rmonroe Oct 4, 10:53 a.m.

    When are we going to send investigators to HER office? Oh, I forgot. They're on their way to investigate those campaign flights of hers. Hope she enjoyed selling our children and teachers down the river with her push for Race To The Top funding from Washington. Now we'll have federal control of our schools.

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