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Some people required to pay back pandemic unemployment assistance

For the duration of the pandemic, a number of people used both state and federal unemployment assistance. But with so many new people making claims, more mistakes were made than usual, resulting in some people having to repay that money.
Published: May. 19, 2021 at 4:18 PM MDT|Updated: May. 19, 2021 at 4:19 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - For the duration of the pandemic, a number of people used both state and federal unemployment assistance. But with so many new people making claims, more mistakes were made than usual, resulting in some people having to repay that money.

Under former President Donald Trump, federal unemployment assistance was granted to help Americans throughout the pandemic.

“There were three new federal programs implemented,” said Marcia Hultman, secretary for the department of labor and regulation. “There was an additional payment on top of a state payment, initially, that was $600 at first and most recently that was lowered to $300. There was another program, PUA that allowed individuals that didn’t previously qualify, small business owners, gig workers, to be eligible. And then the third program was extended benefits.”

PUA or pandemic unemployment assistance was used by millions of people nationwide, including a local door dash employee, who wasn’t eligible for state unemployment before this but now has to repay more than $7,500.

“When you’re told you’re included and you’ve been completely honest with them the entire time, and then they send you a letter saying, ‘it’s not your fault that you owe this money,’ then it’s like well then you feel like I don’t owe anything, why is this happening?” said John Mitchell, someone required to pay back PUA.

“They are required by federal and state law to repay those payments and an overpayment may be the fault of the individual, the department, or the employers,” said Hultman. “So the majority of the time, it has been something that the individual has done improperly, it could be something simple and unintentional but they are required to repay those payments.”

Although payment plans can be set up, annually, Mitchell doesn’t make much more than this overpayment bill.

“They’ll have to take it out of my future taxes,” said Mitchell. “I’ve actually had in the past when I’ve owned money and they’ve had to take things out of my tax return and stuff. They’ll freeze my driver’s license before they take all of the money out of my tax return to get it paid back. I’ll never get it paid back.”

Hultman said that with the number of job opportunities currently in South Dakota, the department of labor and regulation has decided to end the three federal programs in the state by June 26.

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