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Missouri lawmakers didn’t cancel debts from unemployment benefit mistakes

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — State lawmakers left tens of thousands of Missouri residents facing big debts by failing to pass a seemingly popular measure to stop the state from clawing back mistaken overpayments of unemployment benefits.

The General Assembly’s session ended this month about four hours early because of a fight over abortion, blocking the measure to waive unemployment debts. The Kansas City Star reports that roughly 46,000 people could be affected.

Claycomo forklift operator Amy Minich was forced to stay home for months during the pandemic. Missouri’s labor department told her in December that she owed nearly $8,000 in overpaid benefits. In April, the department began deducting $500 a week from her benefits, forcing her to live on $135 a week.

The department suspended most collections in April as lawmakers discussed their debt-forgiveness measure. Department officials haven’t said whether they’ll resume.

“I feel like I’m paying the price for their mistakes,” Minich said.

Meanwhile, Parson’s administration and business leaders are blaming extra unemployment benefits provided by federal government for employers being unable to attract workers. Economists view the link as unproven.

The “whole conversation” about unemployment benefits has become “very tricky,” said state Rep. Scott Cupps, R-Shell Knob, who pushed for the debt-forgiveness plan this year.

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