Created: May 06, 2021 05:20 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — At the height of the pandemic, the New York State Department of Labor sent hundreds of thousands of people on unemployment an extra week or two worth of extended federal benefits. Now, a year later, the state is trying to recoup the cash.
NYSDOL sent emails and then followed up with letters to more than 166,000 New Yorkers explaining that in March and April of 2020, it inadvertently overpaid them by $145 million.
“We were waiting for months back then to get any sort of payment, we couldn't get through to people on the phone it was really a hassle,” remembered Joshua Blodgett who is now being asked to re-pay $1,200.
The situation is even more frustrating for folks like Jason Ostrowski, who not only had to wait weeks to get any unemployment benefits last spring, but then had his identity compromised when NYSDOL breached his personal information.
“I thought I was free and clear after last year's fun with my Social Security number and trying to get unemployment to begin with but I took a deep breath, I called New York State and I was told 'Sorry there's nothing we can do on the phone for you.' You basically have to figure it out through DOC you sign and you can get a hearing if you want,” he told News10NBC.
Ostrowski says his bank records don’t even show an overpayment.
“I wanted a hearing and they haven't even responded to that and then I got the DocuSign and there's been no response to that either,” he said.
The state may not be getting back to those who’ve requested a waiver or a hearing yet because it’s now re-evaluating its ask.
Late Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Labor issued new guidance that may allow the state to waive the collection of these overpayments in many cases.
A spokeswoman for the NYSDOL says they’re reviewing the new guidance and will update people soon.
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