VEC recovers nearly $83.5 million in overpaid pandemic benefits

Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 5:04 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The NBC12 On Your Side Investigators have confirmed the Virginia Employment Commission has recovered nearly $83.5 million from Virginians who were overpaid benefits.

The VEC started working last month to take back more than $885 million in unemployment payments that were inaccurately sent during the pandemic, whether it was the claimant’s fault or not. Now, tens of thousands of people are trying to appeal paying back money to the state.

A staggering number of Virginians- 155,181- received overpayment notices. On July 1, the VEC began taking action to collect those lost tax dollars, which means likely working out a payment plan with the person.

However, even measures like garnishing paychecks, holding up tax returns, or sending cases to collections could be used. So far, the VEC has recovered $83,495,414 - money that should’ve never been given out.

The VEC is granting some claimants waivers if they can’t afford to pay back the money, allowing the person to owe anything. So far, the state has forgiven nearly $158 million in overpayments. That’s more than 46,000 Virginians who’ve had their appeals approved.

But, getting the overpayments waived is not guaranteed. NBC12 also confirmed the VEC has so far denied 13,337 appeal waivers. Another 71,270 people now have installment agreements.

One of those denied appeals belongs to Mark Atkins. The VEC has sent him repeated notices saying he owes more than $3,400, when Atikins says he was legitimately out of work.

“It’s been continuously worrisome,” said Atkins. “The last letter said they were maybe going to garnish my paycheck. They told me I had to go to a hearing and present my case. They gave me a number about someone to call about getting a lawyer. This is like being sued.”

The VEC is still working through 73,000 waiver applications. Officials say those appeals should automatically be granted if the overpayments fell between March 2020 and June 2021.

In fact, Atkins’ alleged overpayments happened during that timeframe. NBC12 pointed this out to the VEC, and is waiting to hear back.

Even if your overpayments occurred after that timeframe, VEC officials say you should send in a waiver regardless, since you can still qualify for forgiveness.