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NYS Department of Labor asks people to give back overpayments

Some people received unemployment overpayments in April and May of 2020. Now, they're being asked to repay it or apply for a financial hardship waiver.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — With so many people still out of work, it came as a shock to many when they got a letter and/or an email last week from the New York State Department of Labor asking for money back. 

It turns out, some people got duplicate payments, and now the state wants that money returned. 

2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik did a bunch of stories about $600 mystery payments last April and May, and when the NYS Department of Labor finally got back to us, a spokesperson didn't say anything about people having to eventually give the money back.

But on Friday, people started getting those letters and emails asking for it back, and that meant people started calling and emailing 2 On Your Side wondering if they were being scammed. 

Carly L. got both a letter in the mail and an email. She told us, "The amount is $1,200 and while searching my records, I have determined must be the two mystery payments. Paying this back would create great financial hardship on me as I'm making less money working 30 hours a week than most are collecting on unemployment and I'm struggling to pay student loans for my bachelor's degree."

Becky S. emailed asking, "Is the email and letter received truly from the Department of Labor?" She also said, "If it is true that you have to pay back the $600, how does the waiver apply and who is entitled to that?"

First of all, this is not a scam. It's for real. The NYSDOL tweeted Friday that last April and May, a "small portion of claimants" got duplicate payments and under federal law, the NYSDOL is required to recover overpaid funds. Included in the letter people got are instructions on how to request an appeal or a waiver to forgive the overpayment due to financial hardship.

We found more information online that says you can apply for a waiver if you weren't at fault and if "recovery of the overpayment would be contrary to equity and good conscience."

So what does that mean?

The state says the primary consideration is whether repayment will cause extraordinary financial hardship, like an inability to pay for shelter, food, or medicine.

So here's what to watch out for. If you want to turn in a waiver, you will get a DocuSign form via email this week.

The NYSDOL tweeted that if you don't get the DocuSign, you can request a waiver application online starting Friday at noon. And here's where things go from here if you don't request a hearing of waiver - the New York State DOL says it will start recovering payments from your benefits after 30 days reducing all unemployment benefits by 20-percent until the overpaid funds are recovered.

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