In the year of Covid, one of the reactions of the federal government was to pour money into states to pay for unemployment claims since the feds knew their shutdowns and restrictions would lead to layoffs and business closures.  The feds also encouraged states to get that money spent ASAP.  Well now we are finding out there were some unintended consequences.

It seems in their rush to approve Missourians’ unemployment claims, the Missouri Department of Labor (DOL) now believes they approved some recipients that were not actually eligible.  The DOL director told a House investigative committee, which I vice-chair, they may have sent out $150 million to applicants that they shouldn’t have.  And now DOL wants the money back, and, by law, are sending notices to recipients to pay up.  The problem is the erroneous payments, which were several thousand dollars per recipient, were made months ago, and the recipients have spent the money on rent, mortgages, food, and utilities.  And many of the recipients are secondary public school employees, like bus drivers, cooks, and substitute teachers.

So our committee has decided to help these recipients.  With bi-partisan committee support, I have filed HB1083 to allow recipients to keep the federal portion of the overpayments.  If the bill passes, recipients will only need to repay the state portion, and can do that in affordable installment payments. The federal portion makes up about 80% of the overpayments, and the feds are not asking for that money back, so it is silly for Missouri government to use state resources to recapture money from Missourians only to give it back to Washington DC.  We would like to waive the state portion as well, but doing so may require Missouri business owners to pay more into the Unemployment Trust Fund, which would not be fair to them.

If HB1083 passes, recipients who intentionally defrauded the system will still be required to pay back all of the money they received.  But for recipients who incorrectly but non-fraudulently received payments, the state portion will be like a no-interest, no-penalty loan, and the federal portion will be a gift.  And because my bill contains an emergency clause, Missourians will see relief as soon as the governor signs the bill instead of at the end of August when most legislation goes into effect.

Until next time, health, happiness and prosperity to you and your family.