Lawmakers seek relief for Missouri unemployment recipients forced to repay overpayments

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Thousands of Missourians could be off the hook for repaying some of the money the state overpaid in unemployment. During the pandemic, the state admits it sent 46,000 people too much to the tune of $150 million.

While the legislature works to fix it, the state’s already forcibly taking some of that cash back. 

Michael King’s been out of steady work for months. 

“Truthfully, I’m living back home with my parents and I’ve sold both my vehicles,” King said.

The commercial plumber is thankful unemployment checks from Missouri have been coming in.  But he’s still waiting on payments of nearly $16,000 for lost wages in Kansas. 
 
“I didn’t have much grey hair before this all started! I’m getting there more and more now,” said King.
 
While Missouri money’s been flowing, he got a letter like demanding some of the money back. It’s part of the $150 million overpayment problem the state’s faced during the past year.  

Michael’s bill is about $800. But a FOX4 viewer shared the state’s asked him to return nearly $4,000.

“It’s kind of strange. In the world I live in, you make a mistake, you pay for it. Apparently with the government, they make a mistake, somebody else pays for it,” King said.
 
State Rep. Peter Merideth is among those fighting to stop the state from forcing people who did nothing wrong to repay.

“It’s really simple. We should’ve just forgiven all this money. We’re in a pandemic, an economic crisis, these people received money that helped them. It’s helped our economy in the process. Government screwed up, government deals with it,” said Rep. Merideth, (D)-80th Dist.

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Thursday, the Missouri House approved legislation to forgive part of the overpaid money from the federal government. That’s about 80% of the overpayments, but recipients would still owe back the remaining 20% in state dollars. Some have shared in unemployment support groups that tax refunds are already being withheld to cover that. 
 
“We’ve already seen folks have their refunds taken from them. Letters threatening garnishment. This is terrifying and confusing and lot of these people,” said Rep. Merideth.
 
Many are filing appeals to avoid having to pay. Meanwhile, many families are frustrated and struggling to survive.

“You don’t know what’s going on day to day and can’t really start planning to put your life back together,” said King. 

The legislation to relieve part of the overpaid unemployment money, now goes to the Missouri Senate.   Many lawmakers are also calling on Governor Mike Parson to forgive the state portion of the overpayments too which so far, he’s been unwilling to do. 

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