PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Employment Department still has a lot of work to do when it comes to getting benefits to residents. After months of waiting, one man said he finally got a check in the mail – and then another one, and then another one.
On Saturday, Daniel Mark received 37 checks in the mail from the Oregon Employment Department.
The checks total $14,000. While that sounds great, especially for someone who has waited nearly three months for benefits, Mark was afraid to cash them because he worried he’ll end up owing the state money when they realize their mistake – and it turned out he was right.
“I’ve waited so long for the money and now which money is mine? How do I figure this out?” asked Mark.
Mark first applied for state benefits at the end of March and was initially denied because he didn’t qualify for standard unemployment. Before the shutdowns, he was self-employed. Then, when the CARES Act was passed, unemployment was expanded and he qualified. After three months of waiting, he suspected the Oregon Employment Department paid him double what they should have.
“Each check has its own check number, so it’s not like they’re duplicates – they’re all good checks,” explained Mark. “I could put them all in the bank, but I’m not going to. I don’t want the trouble, but I’ve waited so long for the checks, now I get the checks and I can’t use them.”
On Monday afternoon, Mark learned he was correct and was in fact paid twice. He can only keep about half the money; it’s an error he was told has happened to multiple people.
“I think it’s certainly possible that multiple people have been overpaid,” Oregon Employment Department Interim Director David Gerstenfeld told sister station KOIN. “It may be human error, just because we have hundreds of thousands of claims. Even if we’re accurate 99.9% of the time, there’s going to be some errors.”
Gerstenfeld said their system does have screening measures in place to keep people from getting duplicate payments. Those who were overpaid will eventually have to give the money back.
“In a situation where someone receives a check, for instance, if we make an error and they cash the check, that’s not their fault. Those other penalties don’t apply,” said Gerstenfeld. “We do work with them on recovering the money, and there’s actually only some pretty limited ways that we are, by statute, allowed to recover the overpayment.”
Overpayment of unemployment benefits has recently been an issue for multiple states, Business Insider reports, and experts warn that spending a suspicious windfall from the state will likely catch up with you in the end.
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