Errors force some unemployed in Colorado to repay benefits

DENVER (AP) — Some Colorado residents are being asked to repay some of the unemployment benefits they received from the state due to errors in their applications, Colorado Public Radio reported.

State officials say that human error is to blame, along with the rush required to implement the new system amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The mix-up has affected gig workers especially hard, the radio station reported. Adam Christopher Brill, 39, has seen his benefits drop to about $111 per week, and the state has told him he owes roughly $6,000 to fix an overpayment.

“I felt like they rushed the system to get out,” Brill said. “They were under a lot of pressure. It’s now coming back to us as gig workers and self employed people.”

His error was a typo. When he was applying for benefits, Brill used the wrong figure from his tax forms which inadvertently led to a much higher payment than he was entitled.

Brill is part of a group who lost their jobs during the pandemic and are now being asked to repay a portion of their state benefits. Some only need to submit more clarifying documentation to resolve their problems. But some state officials told the radio station that cases like Brill’s are among the most common.

“Overpayments are always a part of the unemployment insurance program, for a variety of reasons around eligibility of benefits,” said Cher Haavind, the deputy executive director for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. “But they are amplified during economic downturns.”

There have been 74,191 confirmed cases and 1,983 deaths as a result of the coronavirus since the pandemic began, according to the state Department of Health.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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