ESC duns jobless for benefit overpayments
Posted September 28, 2010 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated September 29, 2010 2:34 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Thousands of unemployed North Carolina residents have received letters from the state Employment Security Commission saying their jobless benefits have been overpaid and they need to return the money.
David Clegg, deputy chairman of the ESC, said Tuesday that the letters are part of an accounting procedure that flagged about 38,000 people who might have had problems with eligibility requirements in their second year of receiving unemployment benefits.
"Some had been overpaid. Some were potentially underpaid, about 15 percent were underpaid," Clegg said.
Those affected are getting multiple letters from the ESC, but Clegg said most will wind up owing nothing once they receive all of the letters.
"Many of these adjustments will net out (to) zero," he said.
Marta Miller, who was laid off last year, said she understands what the four letters she's received say, but she doesn't understand why the state says she owes more than $2,600.
"I just wish somebody would explain it and fix it," Miller said. "They thought they had overpaid me for whatever weeks, and this is the amount I owed them. If I had it to pay back, $2,600, I wouldn't be on unemployment."
People who do end up owing money will be able to file for a waiver, Clegg said.
"This is not a bad thing. This is an administrative process," he said. "Sadly, it is one that is a little bit cumbersome because of the state and federal laws."
Miller said she isn't sure why she's got to go through the process when it's hard enough just to look for another job. She said she has called the ESC repeatedly but keeps getting a busy signal.
"I get frustrated not being able to find anything, and then I come home and I have to deal with this. That's just more than enough," she said.
Clegg said the ESC phone lines are overloaded with people calling about the letters in addition to the agency's normal call volume. He asked that everyone be patient and suggested they e-mail the ESC instead at email@example.com.