Some Missourians who receive unemployment benefits were overpaid last year to the tune of around $150 million. Governor Mike Parson has said those funds should be recouped, but some Springfield lawmakers are pushing against that movement.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Missouri saw unemployment more than double from March to April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
However in a bipartisan effort on both the state House and Senate sides, many lawmakers have argued that it isn’t fair to punish Missourians who were overpaid due to a government oversight in the middle of a pandemic. There’s an effort now to forgive those overpayments.
According to Republican Missouri State Senator Lincoln Hough, the pandemic left many Missourians economically devastated, and to require them to pay back that money which they may have needed would be wrong. Hough told KSMU he filed a bill in support of Missouri forgiving the overpayments and has been working with the director of the Department of Labor on a path forward.
Democrat Missouri State Representative Betsy Fogle also supports forgiving the overpayments. She believes that there is no reason to further burden Missourians economically after last year.
“The department has told us during hearings that only about 3% of that was fraudulent and you know my plan or my goal would be that during a time of economic uncertainty, those neighbors in my district and across the state would be able to keep that money,” Fogle Said.
Only about 20-25% of the overpayments came from state funds, the rest coming from federal unemployment benefits.
A staff member in the office of Representative J. Eggleston, who is sponsoring one of the bills to forgive the overpayments, said the issue might go to a vote this week.