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Thousands of New Yorkers face having to pay back unemployment benefits

Thousands of New Yorkers face having to pay back unemployment benefits.
Thousands of New Yorkers face having to pay back unemployment benefits.
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New Yorkers are still experiencing issues with the state labor department when it comes to unemployment benefits.

In some cases, the state has overpaid benefits -- and they’re now asking for the money back.

Thousands of New Yorkers are right now faced with the daunting task of paying back unemployment payments they thought they were entitled to.

MORE: NYS Labor Dept. doles out red tape in response to CBS 6 questions on unemployment system

According to a report by the Times Union, the New York State Department of Labor gave out more than $114 million in relief to applicants who turned out to be ineligible.

Labor law attorney Patrick Sorsby says he has received dozens of calls from people needing help with their case.

“They didn't necessarily question whether or not they were entitled to the benefits because everybody was encouraging them to apply, including their employer, and the Department of Labor did not indicate that they weren’t eligible,” said Sorsby.

One claimant, who wanted to remain anonymous, told CBS6 that the labor department informed her she owed more than $5000. She now has to pay it in monthly installments or face further repercussions.

For freelance casting director Allison Franck, she noticed that the NYSDOL gave her more than she was entitled to. When she called them to find out what she needed to do, she wasn’t given an answer.

“They’re not giving me the ability to pay them back,” said Franck.

“I’ve called them, I emailed them, I’ve been transferred to different people,” said Franck.

Sorsby says for state-provided benefits, the state can’t recover the money overpaid if they cannot prove the claimant falsified their application to get the money.

The state needs to prove that the claimant intentionally tried to mislead them.

MORE: CBS 6 Investigates: Help for unemployed - more than 4,000 emails answered

According to Sorsby, it’s a different story for federally-funded benefits.

The state has discretion. This means they can choose whether to waive the amount overpaid or to demand it be paid back..

“Some of these people have been paid thousands of dollars and now the state wants that money back. I don't know if it's a question of ‘can they get that money back’ -- I think they can recover the money if they choose to -- but the question now is ‘should they?’” said Sorsby. “In the midst of the economic situation we’re in, is it a right thing to do?”
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CBS6 reached out to the New York State Department of Labor to find out how claimants were overpaid and what they’re doing to address this situation but have not heard back at this time.

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