House Enrolled Act 1450 made employees who receive regular time off, like school employees and those who are employed on an as-needed or on-call basis, ineligible for unemployment benefits. In Southern Indiana, contracted bus drivers, Sodexo food service employees, and many Community Action Program of Evansville (CAPE) workers are among those affected.
But the state still paid thousands of Hoosiers after the law made them ineligible. Now the state wants it's money back.
Kristina Galloway is one of the many faces that represent the state-wide problem. "We're in a crisis right now we don't know what we're gonna do," says Galloway.
Galloway works for the University of Evansville's food service around nine months out of the year. Galloway relies on unemployment benefits during the summer. "When I'm not on-call or at work here, that's how I make my living." The new state law made employees -- like Galloway -- ineligible for unemployment.
But the Department of Workforce Development slipped. Galloway and thousands other Hoosiers who routinely file for unemployment during the summer were approved for the benefits they're no longer eligible to receive.
"Now they're wanting us to pay it back. And we're like most Americans, we cant pay a $2500 fine back in a week, two weeks," says Galloway. "The only thing I could tell them is keep my state tax check. Cause I can't afford to pay you anything right now."
Warrick County resident Amy Baker is in the same boat. She's a contracted bus driver who draws unemployment during the summer. "It's not like we just held onto this money for a rainy day. When we got our benefits, we spent it. We all did -- and coming up with that on top of our normal bills is gonna create a hardship for a lot of people," says Baker.
The workers say they shouldn't have to pay for the state's mistake, and now, they want change. "If we weren't entitled to that money, they shouldn't have given it to us. [...] I would like to see that turned around if that's the least that happens," says Baker
"I'd like to see them reverse the decision and let us continue drawing our unemployment," says Galloway.
Several state representatives say they'll revisit the bill at the next legislative session. Until then, getting the penalties waived is their top priority. Legislators listened to Hoosiers' concerns about the issue Thursday night at Central Library in Evansville. Another meeting will be held in a couple weeks to discuss filing a class action suit against the state. We'll bring you information on that meeting as soon as its finalized.