NEW ORLEANS — UPDATE: Thousands of letters were sent to Louisianans telling them they received more unemployment benefits then they should have, asking them for thousands of dollars back in 15 days.
But Thursday, the Louisana Workforce Commission issued a press release apologizing, saying the 7,600 overpayment notices were a mistake due to a technical issue. Many people don't owe anything.
The agency said it was aware of the error in the release, vowing to send to most of those affected a "Notice of Adjustment" that would confirm a $0 overpayment balance.
The notice said, "(LWC) is aware of approximately 7,600 Unemployment Insurance overpayment notices that were generated on September 9 - 10, 2020. LWC is working with the vendor to correct this technical issue.
We apologize for any confusion.
The LWC will send a “Notice of Adjustment” to these individuals within the next week that will indicate their overpayment balance is $0. Currently, no action is required by any of those impacted.
The vast majority of individuals will not owe anything related to this issue. We will continue to work to resolve any further outstanding issues.
The LWC has established an email inbox exclusively for these overpayment related issues. If you have additional questions once your receive your Adjustment Notice, please contact the LWC via email, Septovrpymtissue@lwc.la.gov. Again, we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and thank you for your patience."
Editor's note: The below text was the original article before the Louisiana Workforce Commission addressed the concern.
Since the measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus began, the economic impacts the pandemic have been felt by most Americans, many of them losing their jobs temporarily due to furlough or indefinitely as businesses shutter across the country.
But for people on unemployment, receiving mail saying they owe back thousands of dollars could seem like another economic crisis in itself.
Letters sent to some people on unemployment are saying they were overpaid, and they have 15 days to make it right by filing an appeal of paying the money back, WBRZ reported.
Katherine Stephens was working at the legislature when she was laid off due to the pandemic and became eligible for unemployment benefits in April.
"That was such a relief," Stephens told WBRZ. "I was able to keep up with my student loans and pay the bills I have without any stress."
Stephens continued to apply for work and even tucked a few dollars away in her savings account. Then last week, her unemployment benefits stopped. On laworks.net, Stephens saw that there had been an overpayment on her claim. She started calling the Louisiana Workforce Commission but didn't hear back.
On Monday, she received two letters in the mail that went more into detail about that overpayment. The letters said she owed back $4,278 for unemployment insurance and $9,600 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. Stephens said she was worried she'll have to pay back $13,878 in benefits, most of which she no longer has.
"They're essentially asking me for $14,000, and I have 15 days to either pay it or appeal," she said.
Turns out, she's not alone. WBRZ reports that many people received letters this week from the Louisiana Workforce Commission. Many of them are being told they owe thousands of dollars back to the state. Like Stephens, they have questions that haven't been answered.
"I can't get anyone on the phone to find out if this is a glitch in the computer software; I have no idea," Stephens said. "The hardest part is just not having anyone respond, so I can't get any information from anyone about what the problem is."
On Tuesday, reporters asked the Louisiana Workforce Commission about these letters via email. More information was promised that day, but WBRZ did not hear back. After more people contacted WBRZ about the letters, once again questions were asked about what the letters meant, if they went out in error and how many were mailed. A response was not given