Seattle man on unemployment says he was blindsided by overpayment notice from state

Thousands of Washingtonians continue to have problems getting unemployment benefits in a timely manner.

Frustrating is not enough of a word to describe what Shandra Scobba has been dealing with to get unemployment benefits.

“It was yesterday when I checked and I said oh my God,” Scobba said.

Because the Seattle woman finally got her payment but it took almost 8 grueling months.

“I had people giving me money to scrape by I can’t imagine people who have kids and family,” Scobba said.

One of the reasons why Scobba’s case took so long is because she was initially denied and appealed her case.

For Michael Wohl, there is a different kind of stress.

“Rough way to start the day for sure I was very confused and angry as well,” Wohl said.

He woke up Friday to a notice from the Employment Security Department that he owed almost $8,200 in overpayments to him.

“I don’t know how the state can make an error that way and expect people to be able to pay back these large sums of money,” Wohl said.

In March, Wohl got laid off from Dusty Strings then in June he says the company offered to hire him back but on reduced hours. He says it was about half his normal hours so he says he declined and left his job. Michael showed Q13 News paperwork showing his online explanation to ESD about his decision.

“I absolutely voluntarily separated from the company and knew it was a possibly disqualification from collecting unemployment benefits and I was prepared for that,” Wohl said.

Current rules do say that if your job reduces your hours by 25% or more you could still qualify to get unemployment and so Wohl thought everything was ok when the money kept coming in.

Q13 News sat down with Commissioner Suzi Levine on Friday asking if there shouldn’t be a better system in place so that people are not alerted months later of overpayments.

“We assess eligibility on a weekly basis it’s an insurance program if someone is found ineligible, for example, because they had refused work or what have you, we do notify them,” Levine said.

In terms of overpayment notices, Levine says they take great pains to try to avoid that from happening.

 But the question still remains why did the payments to Michael continue to come in after July when he notified ESD?

“We are governed by the law and the law requires to conditionally pay until it’s resolved,” Levine said.

Levine says people in Michael’s situation who believe the overpayment notice is wrong can appeal and upload extra evidence of reduced hours to see if their case can be reversed.

That evidence can include a letter from the employer or email conversations proving reduced hours.

During an appeal process, you would not have to pay the money.

Levine says if they don’t reverse a case, people can request a payment system if they cannot afford to pay the lump sum.

Michael says he plans to appeal.

“It seems like some error must have been made along the way,”

As for Shandra’s case, Levine apologized about the lengthy wait saying her department is hyper-focused on the cases that have been unresolved the longest.

There were about 20,000 claims made this past week that were not paid out and have to be resolved. Levine says that is about 1.4% of the claims.

She also pointed out that 70% of people who apply receive their money right away during a time when they are seeing unprecedented claims.

The state paid out over $145 million in claims for the week and is approaching $12 billion in payouts to more than a million Washingtonians since March.