PHOENIX - For the last few months, thousands of Arizonans found out they no longer have to pay the state tens of thousands of dollars in unemployment overpayments, but as we found out, far more still owe money, and may not be aware they qualify for a waiver.
You have to put yourself back in 2020. There were no jobs, no income. Pandemic unemployment was a lifeline, but for many, it also became a financial catastrophe.
Walter Dolan is in a better place now, caring for Arabian horses. "Coco Chanel" is about to be a mom.
"Pretty much any day now to have the baby," said Dolan.
We first told you about Dolan in 2022. He collected pandemic unemployment assistance like so many other Arizonans in 2020. Then, through no fault of his own, he received a letter from the Department of Economic Security, saying he needed to pay back every penny.
"I owe them $25,575.47," he said.
Dolan is just one. Nearly 100,000 Arizonans were told they needed to pay back unemployment assistance through no fault of their own – the state made an error.
"They admitted it was their fault, yeah," he said.
His paperwork says it's an administrative failure and according to the DES website, he qualifies to have the $25,000 debt waived.
"No letter, no phone call. Nothing explaining to me that's even available to me to get this waived because it was a departmental error, administrative error by DES.. not my fault."
In 2021, the federal government first gave states the guidance to waive the money, but DES didn't start until late last year.
So far, 11,300 overpayment accounts have been waived, covering $75 million, according to DES.
Dolan is convinced his case will be added to the list, but he was never notified payments were being waived until FOX 10 contacted him.
"I didn't do any nefarious or fraudulent at all, and if that's the case, these cases are now being waived, they should get the information to us in order to do that and thank you for letting me know now."
For more information on DES' unemployment insurance overpayment waivers, head to https://des.az.gov.
Statement from DES:
"The Department continues to review and process the establishment of overpayment and waiver options as permissible by federal and state laws. DES will continue to consider overpayment waivers as applicable.
DES evaluates overpayments at the time of establishment to determine whether a waiver can be granted. If so, DES will waive the overpayment on the claimant’s behalf and send the claimant a notice letting them know their repayment obligation has been waived. If DES does not grant a waiver on the claimant’s behalf, they can still submit a request for a waiver. More information is included on our website.
DES will refund any amount that has been repaid by the individual after a waiver is approved for benefit weeks paid during the federal pandemic period. It’s important to note that individuals have the right to appeal an establishment of an overpayment and request a waiver of repayment prior to being required to repay benefits. Established overpayments are not collected until after the appeal timeframe or process is complete. The Director is not available for an interview."