JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Proposed legislation in the Missouri House of Representatives would give a break to struggling residents being forced to repay pandemic funds. The state claims some residents were overpaid.
State Representative Deb Lavender (D-Manchester), who sponsored the bill, says these Missourians did nothing illegal to obtain this money.
“I have a bill that’s going to ask for Missouri to stop collecting unemployment insurance benefits that were given to people laid off during the pandemic through no fault of their own,” Lavender said. “They didn’t fraudulently get this money. It was given to them by the state and federal government for unemployment during the pandemic”
The federal government, for the most part, waived repayment of the federal portion of the pandemic funds. But Missouri Governor Mike Parson has said the state money should be repaid.
“If you got more money than you should, you should have an obligation to pay it back, because you are taking away from someone else,” he said.
The state of Missouri says it overpaid some $96 million to tens of thousands of Missouri residents during the pandemic.
One of them is Karen Kushshon from north St. Louis County. The state is threatening to garnish her wages and putting a lien on her house if she does not repay more than $18,000 they say she was overpaid.
“I don’t have the money I don’t have no money to pay no $18,000. It’s not right. I’m still living paycheck by paycheck,” she said. “I’m barely making it, and if they start taking it out of my paycheck, it’s going to really hurt me.”
State lawmakers tried before to pass legislation to bar the state from collecting pandemic overpayments. The effort passed the Missouri House on a bipartisan vote but failed in the Senate. Rep. Lavender says too many families are still struggling.
”Well, they’re garnishing wages, they’ve placed liens on homes, people are having tremendous challenges being able to pay for the amount,” she said. “It’s being pulled out of their paychecks right now, so there’s a substantial hardship to this right now for a lot of people.”