Governor says unemployment benefits paid in error must be returned

By Jason Hancock, Missouri Independent
Posted 2/3/21

Missourians who were mistakenly paid unemployment benefits by the state should be required to pay that money back, Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday.

The Missouri Department of Labor told St. Louis …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Governor says unemployment benefits paid in error must be returned

Posted

Missourians who were mistakenly paid unemployment benefits by the state should be required to pay that money back, Gov. Mike Parson said Thursday.

The Missouri Department of Labor told St. Louis Public Radio last week that the state overpaid roughly $96 million in unemployment benefits between January and September last year. The errors were driven by a deluge of unemployment applications brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as federal emergency programs that extended benefits to workers who were previously ineligible.

Parson was asked about the situation during a Q&A as part of the annual Missouri Press Association Day at the Capitol which was held in a virtual format this year. He said anyone who received unemployment payments in error should “most certainly” be required to return them.

“Some people did try to defraud the system. We know that. To give them a free pass when they intentionally did that is one thing,” Parson said. “For the people who just made a mistake, you know, it’s just life in general. If you got more money than you should, you should have an obligation to pay it back. Because you’re taking it away from someone else. I know it’s easy to say it’s government money, but the reality is it needs to go somewhere else that needs it.”

Some lawmakers have expressed concern about forcing Missourians to repay these benefits, in many instances months after they’ve been doled out and because of mistakes in the process.

Asked recently about the issue, Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said he doesn’t believe the money will be recouped by the state.

“If it’s what we think it looks like,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “the state’s probably going to have to eat it.”

Rep. Tony Lovasco, R-O’Fallon, tweeted Thursday afternoon that he strongly disagrees with the governor’s position.

“People applied for benefits using the process asked of them,” he said. “It isn’t their fault (Missouri) screwed up and approved them in error. Outside of fraud cases, asking people to return thousands of dollars ‘months’ later is just wrong.”

Parson said during the Thursday morning Q&A that it’s important to get that money back.

“If you fraudulently abused the system, you should be accountable for that,” he said. “If you made a mistake and got paid too much, you should pay it back.”

(Jason Hancock has been writing about Missouri since 2011, most recently as lead political reporter for The Kansas City Star. Missouri Independent is part of a national and independently funded statehouse reporting project).

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment