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Thousands of Ohio workers forced to pay back unemployment benefits after accidental overpayments

Posted at 6:09 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-10 19:52:45-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services has told 23,597 unemployed workers they must pay back benefits as a result of accidental overpayments.

"I pretty much started crying," said Marnie Behan. "I had been spending all of my savings... most of it, to keep myself afloat."

The 21-year-old Buffalo Wild Wings waitress and Ohio State student received an e-mail instructing her to pay back her unemployment benefits within 45 days or her case would be turned over the Ohio Attorney General.

"I was just very frustrated and very upset," she said. "There were a lot of things going through my mind, like, 'What am I going to do'?"

Behan said she has enough money in her bank account to pay back the nearly $3,000 she must return to the state, but not much more, and she has yet to be called to return to work.

Ohio Jobs and Family Service Director Kimberly Hall said there is nothing she can do about the accidental overpayments because it's a federal requirement regulated by the U.S. Dept. of Labor.

"Any overpayment has to be repaid, whether or not it was due to fraud or due to lagging wage information," she said during a Zoom conference call Tuesday.

Hall blamed the state's historic number of unemployment claims payments for accidental overpayments.

She said Ohio has paid more than it ever has in a single year.

Since March 15, an ODJFS spokesman reported that more than $3.8 billion has been paid to 686,602 workers.

"I just think it’s been a mess and no one was prepared for it," said Behan.

Behan requested an appeal because she believes she still qualifies for unemployment.

She said she is unsure why she literally has to pay for someone else’s error.

"They (ODJFS) said this is no fault of yours... so I’m like, 'Why am I being hurt in this process because of your mistake'?"

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