New York overpaid $115M in unemployment benefits. Some lawmakers want it forgiven.


Some state senators and non-profit attorneys are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration to consider waiving some unemployment benefit overpayments that occurred during the coronavirus pandemic.

Overpayment of unemployment insurance benefits became a costlier problem for state unemployment agencies throughout the country in 2020 as they coped with a wave of benefit-seekers fueled by major job losses as the virus spread.

New York paid $115 million in overpayments in 2020 while states around the country paid $2.9 billion in unemployment insurance overpayments combined, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

While the state has continued to collect on overpayments throughout the pandemic, some state senators want the state department of labor to follow the lead from other states and offer waivers on some of them.  

A letter penned to the state Department of Labor Commissioner Reardon signed by 12 senators requested the department waive or forgive repayments from people who are not at fault for receiving overpayments.

“Out of work New Yorkers have suffered enough in this pandemic — they don't need the state pounding on their door to collect debts they never even knew they had incurred in the first place," 12 New York senators wrote in a joint letter penned to the state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon in February.

The letter argues the federal stimulus bill passed in December allows the state to waive or forgive overpayments. And New York, like many states around the country, should opt to forgive or waive overpayments in the instance of financial hardship, the senators argued.

Among the senators who signed the letter were Sens. James Skoufis, D-Cornwall, Orange County, and Shelley Mayer, D-Yonkers.