'His balance is gone now,' Family confused after ESD clears overpayment balance with no communication

There are still many left fighting for a waiver from ESD after they were notified of being overpaid in pandemic unemployment benefits. 

Chelsea Rustad of Tumwater has been an ardent advocate for blanket overpayment waivers, as her husband was notified of owing $7,900. "An immediate, complete and permanent waiver of those over payments," said Rustad.

We’ve been hearing from voices across the region including Mountlake Terrace, Seattle and Tacoma. There were several who testified last Thursday during ESD’s Public Rulemaking Hearing.

"They were at one point over $52,000, which is more money than I had, more than twice the money that I had even received from ESD," said Nicole Kennedy.

"From $236 in some time mid-2020 to $8,460 in autumn 2021," said Rebekah Green. "Actually, now I owe $19,500. Clearly, interest has accrued, and I was never informed of this change."

"I wanted to let everyone know how frustrating and harmful the overpayment notices have been for me and a lot of other people," said John Williams of Seattle.

Jerry of Sumner reached out to FOX 13 and shared that his overpayment balance of over $14,000 is now down to zero. The 79-year-old told FOX 13 over the phone that he reached out to the Governor’s Office and two state representatives.

He also hired a lawyer to write a letter on his behalf with all the documents that had been requested. Jerry paid $175 out-of-pocket and said it was worth it. 

He said it was a long, drawn out and at many times frustrating process. He received the overpayment notice in the mail on November 1, and it wouldn’t be until February that he received a letter stating his balance was wiped clean, though he had taken action well before that final letter.

On the other hand, Rustad said her husband’s balance was cleared last Thursday unexpectedly. Her husband even received a $250 payment from WA ESD, which is the amount he had paid towards the alleged overpayment.

"He looked at the website and his balance is gone now. It’s completely disappeared. There was no email or message explaining this disbursement of payment and why the balance disappeared," said Rustad. "So it’s resulted in a lot of confusion. I really would like to see that same result for everyone who has found themselves in this same, unfortunate situation."

Rustad’s husband was going through the ESD appeal process and most recently his overpayment balance was reduced by $4,000.

Working Washington is advocating for blanket overpayment waivers and told FOX 13 in a statement: 

"Some of these overpayment notices date back nearly two years, and it’s been six months since the government ended pandemic emergency benefits. As bills continue to pile up, workers can’t afford to wait any longer for ESD to get it done. ESD must use its authority—clearly granted by the federal government—to quickly waive these overpayments."

ESD told FOX 13 last week that in many cases, people who receive overpayment notices need to provide additional information for the overpayment to be cleared. Others will need to either pay back the money, apply for a waiver or submit an appeal.

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