Colorado is putting the squeeze on the unemployed to return some $128 million in jobless benefit overpayments, most involving clerical mistakes — not fraud.
According to the Denver Post
, the figure includes $98 million in state money and $30 million from the federal government’s extended-benefits plan.
“The majority of overpayments are due to administrative errors,” Colorado Department of Labor and Employment spokeswoman Cher Haavind told the Post via email.
She said the mistaken payments resulted from the “complexities of paying benefits and all the intricacies of the federal extended benefits.” Unfortunately, she added, the acknowledgment of no fault on the part of benefit recipients won’t excuse them from having to repay the money.
That prospect has some upset.
“If it wasn’t valid, why did you pay me for over a year?” Keith Nickerson told the newspaper. “When I talked to them, they told me I was right, but that’s the way it is.”
Nickerson now owes the state $5,000.
The state intends to collect, and to that purpose has increased its integrity unit and audit staffs by 30 percent, the Post reported.
The overpayment problem is not unique to Colorado. Last year alone, nearly $1 billion in state unemployment overpayments was recovered nationwide.
And Colorado is by no means the worst offender when it comes to making overpayments: That distinction goes to Indiana, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
In 2011 alone, Indiana improperly paid out more than $485 million in jobless benefits.
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