Missouri demands return of unemployment compensation the state mistakenly overpaid

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Teamsters 610 calls on Missouri leaders to stop claw back

MISSOURI OVERPAID some 11,300 people from the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation fund. Now it’s demanding the money back. Teamsters Local 610 is calling on Governor Mike Parson and Missouri legislators to stop the claw back. – Joe Raedle / Getty Images photo

Teamsters Local 610 leadership is calling on Governor Mike Parson and Missouri legislators to take action now for every county in the State of Missouri to stop the claw back of unemployment compensation and government stimulus monies.

St. Louis Teamsters 610 represents around 1,500 members in metropolitan St. Louis and the surrounding areas, more than 500 of whom are public sector bus drivers and monitors working for multiple School Districts.

Back in March 2020, when COVID-19 started to become a serious issue, schools shut down for the school year and these employees were laid-off with no known return date. They filed for unemployment and were approved by the State.

Now the state’s unemployment office is demanding the return of that compensation and the government stimulus monies that they received.

“Under normal circumstances, it is only during summer school recess that these employees wouldn’t be eligible for unemployment because they would have a return date to go back to work,” said Jeff Hall, Teamsters Local 610’s president and business manager. In that situation, the employees would just go without work or find a part-time job to hold them over until school started back up.”

However, with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, “Some districts still haven’t returned to classes yet or are open periodically, so these employees are getting no or only partial paychecks,” Hall said. “In some cases, the state has started garnishing wages. If this action continues, the outcome could be devastating to these workers.”

A LIFELINE TAKEN AWAY
Unemployment insurance has been a lifeline for many people during the pandemic, helping struggling workers and their families just to make ends meet. But now Missouri is saying it incorrectly paid some 11,300 people from the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation fund to the tune of $44 million, and the state is telling recipients they have to pay the money back.

State Senator Brian Williams (D-University City), assistant minority floor leader in the Missouri Senate, is asking for answers from the Missouri Department of Labor.

“If the state overpaid someone, that’s on the state, not on the individual,” Williams told KMOV-4 Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager. “I was raised by a single mom, so I know how difficult it is to survive, let alone, have the state make an error and have the individual be held accountable is unfair.”

State Representative Doug Clemens (D-St. Ann) said the state should have been able to catch the error sooner, but likely didn’t because of outdated systems and under staffing. But he said the Department of Labor shouldn’t now be asking for the money back.

“Ultimately the department has the discretion to forgive these debts,” Clemens said. “And in these times, I think we honestly need to do everything in our power to make sure the money stays in these folks’ pockets if it’s no error of their own.”

In a time of crisis, he said, the state shouldn’t be threatening to penalize people for (the state’s) mistakes.

“Those penalties are very, very real,” Clemens said. “With no intervention, their paycheck will be garnished, they will lose their tax returns. We need to intervene and make sure those things don’t happen.”

Missouri isn’t the only state dealing with overpayments from the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation fund. Many other states are reporting they, too, incorrectly paid people. Illinois reports it overpaid about $36 million

Local 610 isn’t just calling on the leadership of Missouri to approve the forgiveness of the money, the union also is asking Missouri leaders to pass legislation approving unemployment compensation for all school district employees in the state who get laid off, even in the summer recess months.

“This isn’t a union issue,” Hall said. “It’s a humanitarian and bipartisan issue that effects every county in the state of Missouri.”


 

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