State seeking millions in unemployment backpayments

Some of the money owed dates as far back as 1985

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) –  The state’s calling on tens of thousands of residents to pay back more than $150 million. The Massachusetts Labor Department says 63,000 people received unemployment benefits they weren’t entitled to.

“The robocalls are a new collection method to supplement the monthly bills that have been going out to claimants,” said Ann Dufresne, of the Office of Labor and Workforce Development. “You know you can expect to get a call from us.”

Some cases of back payments date back to 1985. The average back bill is $2,500.  Many people say it’s unfair of the government to ask for money it overpaid.

“I feel like the state should see it as a loss. I feel like they should own up to their mistake and say we overpaid you, and it’s our fault. I don’t feel like after 30 years they should be knocking on the door of the resident saying you need to pay that back,” said Nikki Schuur of Agawam.

However, the Labor Department says 40% of those over-payments were made due to unemployment fraud, which angers some tax payers.

“We’re getting a lot of money taking out of our taxes , they’re basically getting that extra money for no reason,” said Jennifer Jorge of Springfield. “I work 40 hours a week and the amount of money that gets taken out of my taxes is a lot.”

The Labor Department says over the past three weeks, it’s placed 17,000 calls and collected over $400,000. The state stands to recover $157 million through this recovery program.

You can appeal the claim, but ignoring the calls could lead to a loss of future unemployment benefits. The money collected will go back into the state unemployment insurance trust fund to pay future benefits.

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