State Reps. Gail Riecken (D-Evansville) and Ron Bacon (R-Chandler) and State Sen. Vaneta Becker (R-Evansville) said a meeting for area residents concerned they are being unfairly required to repay unemployment benefits has been set for Thursday (November 1) in Evansville.
The meeting - set to begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Browning Room of the Evansville Central Library, located at 200 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. - is aimed at hearing complaints from residents who were allowed to collect unemployment benefits, but now are receiving collection notices from the state's Department of Workforce Development (DWD) to repay those benefits.
"In the past, these workers have collected unemployment during mandatory shutdowns," Riecken said.
This year, workers followed normal practice, only to find out that DWD made a mistake by not properly informing them about changes in state law affecting their status. DWD then began sending collection notices, despite no official finding that any worker was to blame for this mistake.
"In many cases, the workers were told they were not legally classified as unemployed under DWD's interpretation of state law, so they must repay the benefits," Riecken said. "Some people are being asked to repay thousands of dollars that they simply do not have."
In the Vanderburgh County area, the new policy has impacted many workers for the Community Action Program of Evansville (CAPE), but Riecken noted that legislators have heard complaints from workers in Posey, Gibson and Warrick Counties as well. They will attend this meeting.
"I know that workers in the Anderson area already are appealing DWD's decision through the administrative hearing process to correct this situation," Riecken said.
"The meeting in Evansville this Thursday will give residents a chance to see how many people have been adversely affected by this change in policy, and to examine potential options to protect their interests," Riecken said.
"I want to emphasize the fact that this situation has cropped up through no fault of the workers," she continued. "They did as they had been encouraged by their employers in every previous shutdown. They received benefits as they had in the past, then were told by DWD they must pay those benefits back. The mistakes were made by others, and I see no reason why they should be unfairly penalized."