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'It's unfair': Unemployment claims issues continue

Hundreds of people have reached out to 13 On Your Side after the state announced it had overpaid more than 8 billion dollars in fraudulent claims.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When it comes to unemployment claims, people across the state are still receiving letters from the UIA saying they have to pay back money they received during the start of the pandemic.

Hundreds of people have reached out to 13 On Your Side after the state announced it had overpaid more than 8 billion dollars in fraudulent claims. 

Shaina Benedict, a Muskegon County resident, said she just received a notice she owes thousands of dollars to the UIA, she said it's not fair and is speaking out with hopes to get a resolution.

Benedict was working full-time and was a full-time student before the pandemic shut down the country. She filed for unemployment.

"It came back and they said, yeah, I'm approved. A year later they asked for all the money back but they didn't send me a letter in the mail or anything," Benedict said. 

The amount was more than $9,000.

"They claimed that I was unable to work full-time and go to school full-time so that's why I had to pay all the money back. Also that I did not accept full-time work but the country was shut down so there was no way I could get a new job." 

Benedict has paystubs, letters stating she was a full-time employee and copies of protests of claims. She says she emailed Representative Terry Sabo, who replied he didn't have the resources to help her. 

She reached out to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, too, but Benedict says she didn't get a response.

Now the agency will take her federal income tax.

"It's unfair that this is happening to a lot of people, especially me. I didn't take advantage of the system. I was told to do this and I needed to the money to help become a teacher. So if I didn't get money from my job, I wouldn't be able to go to school."

The UIA advises people being told they still owe money back to the state to fill out a hardship waiver, which may remove the obligation stated in letters from the state.

Fifty people have already been charged with unemployment insurance fraud during the pandemic, nine of whom have plead guilty. Meanwhile, 37 cases are still pending, and five of those accused include UIA workers or contracted employees.

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