WINGATE, N.C. — Sarah Thomas was working at a daycare when the pandemic hit and lost her job.
“You didn’t know when the pandemic was going to be over, what was going to happen,” she said. “So, it was just, ‘Well, here you go. You’re done.’ And I had to figure out what I was going to do after that.”
Thomas said she applied for unemployment and received benefits. She told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke that a few months later she found a part-time job, told the state, and stopped collecting unemployment.
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But a few months after that, the state told her to repay $10,485.
“I barely make $10,000 a year because I’m going to school, so I can’t just come up with $10,000,” she told Action 9.
Thomas said the state wants her to pay $420 each month. She’s appealing the decision.
Stoogenke says that sometimes when people apply for unemployment, they put in the wrong information or their eligibility changes, so the state wants to get its tax dollars back. The most recent North Carolina numbers available are from April through June.
The state said people needed to give back $14.7 million in unemployment.
South Carolina gave Action 9 much more recent numbers, which were between January through September. The state wanted $27.4 million back.
“Overpayments consist of two things,” said a South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce spokesperson. “The first is fraud. It can include many things such as ID theft, intentional misrepresentation of information, etc. The second is non-fraud. Non-fraud overpayments occur when the agency makes decisions based on the best information available at the time and later receives information that conflicts with the previous information and changes the decision. For example, an employee files an unemployment claim indicating that he has been laid off. If it is later learned from the employer that the employee was actually fired for good cause or quit, the decision of eligibility will be reversed and an overpayment is created.”
So what can you do if the state wants the money back?
- If you can’t afford it, the state has payment plans.
- In some very specific cases, it may even let you off the hook.
- You can appeal. Just remember, you only have 30 days from the date the state determines it overpaid you.
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