Colorado Unemployed Told To Pay Back $128 Million In Jobless Benefits

If U.S. economic numbers were not bad enough for the first quarter into the second quarter, layoffs with banking security firms on Wall Street, now we have a state where the unemployed were overpaid and have to repay it back.

Not surprising considering employers do the same thing when staff leave before the end of the pay period and receive full pay for the week.

Colorado is announcing that they accidentally overpaid $128 million to those receiving unemployment benefits this past year and now the state is sending out notices to collect that money, the Denver Post and Associated Press reported.

The Denver Post also reported that last year they recouped $73 million in improperly paid funds, not including write-offs or waivers, Colorado Department of Haavind said. She said the state expects to increase total recovery by another 10 percent this year.

So as we can see there are U.S. states of which in the same situation as is the nation with managing the U.S. debt, namely, fiscally irresponsible.

“Within the last year, (we) hired more staff into our integrity unit and increased audit staff (by) 30 percent,” Colorado Department of Labor and Employment spokeswoman Cher Haavind said.

The picture nationwide is not any better with handling unemployment payment benefits.  States have recovered nearly $983 million last year, the Department of Labor’s Kuruvilla said.

Colorado ranks seventh in the nation for the highest improper-payment rate at 17.5 percent, according to the Department of Labor rankings after a three-year average period ending June 30, 2011.

The report then went on to mention Indiana as the top state in overpayment of unemployment benefits at 43.57 percent and over $485 million in state benefits in 2011 alone.

Fraudulent overpayments that have occurred in Colorado are very rare and represent only 4 to 6 percent, Haavind said.

“We typically don’t forgive any outstanding debts. We carry the debt for years,” Haavind said. “We have a variety of collection tools we use to detect and recover overpayments.”

Unemployment overpayments can include claimants not available for work, severance or vacation pay not reported, not meeting the required job contacts per week, not registering with the workforce center.

Amelia Kelii of Parker was told months after receiving unemployment payments that she did not qualify. She now owes more than $1,000 that she says she does not have.

“If we deliberately lie about our information, they are quick to prosecute,” Kelii said. “But if they make a mistake, we still have to pay for their mistake.”

“Our integrity unit routinely and continuously screens for improper payments,” Haavind said. “We conduct daily, weekly and quarterly reviews and audits.”

“On a quarterly basis, we conduct a cross match review of wages paid against benefit payment history,” she said. “Every employer reports payroll wages to us on a quarterly basis, and we are able to use those reports to conduct our audit.”

Employers are also incorrectly reporting wages to the Department of Labor and unemployed are then receiving notices of overpayment of unemployment benefits.  Requiring claimants to locate W-2s to report dates that are in question.

There has not been any word from other states in terms of billing the jobless for repayment.

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