SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Over the course of one year, from fall of 2019 to 2020, the state of South Dakota says it paid out $2.7 million in overpayments. Of that $2.7 million, the Department of Labor says over $416,000, nearly 16%, was fraudulent.
Now, some South Dakotans are receiving unwelcome news; that the benefits they received were fraudulent, and that they must now repay them, potentially with penalties and interest.
This is a frightening proposition to some, but for those who may have made a mistake, or simply followed the advice they received from the state, there is an avenue to appeal.
We reached out to Jami Bishop, an attorney based in Sioux Falls, to learn more about the appeals process.
“It usually just requires a letter back to the department explaining that they are appealing and that they don’t agree with that determination,” says Bishop. “At that point, a letter will come, a notice of hearing for the appeal will be mailed to the person seeking benefits, and then they have the right to a hearing.”
While a lawyer is nice to have available, they aren’t necessary for these hearings according to Bishop who says, “These hearings are designed for people not to necessarily have lawyers. I think people are better suited having lawyers, but they are designed that people don’t necessarily need them.”
According to South Dakota administrative rule 47:06:04:22, a claimant can request a waiver of overpayment if it was not the fault of the claimant. The rule states that the department will consider whether the individual realized they had made an error when determining whether or not to grant the waiver.
Under the rule, a waiver may also be requested if a claimant does not have the ability to repay. To determine this, the state may look at family income, and any assets the claimant possesses that could be converted.
For a waiver to be considered, the claimant must request the waiver within 15 days after receiving a notice of overpayment.
When asked about the re-collection process during an appeal, a representative of the Dept. of Labor told us that if it was a regular claim and the claimant was at fault, the department would begin garnishing their continued benefits during the appeal process, but would not begin such actions during the appeal if the claimant was not at fault.
For those facing an appeal, Bishop recommends reaching out to the state for resources to educate themselves about the unemployment process, and highlights the importance of providing honest and accurate information about what happened and how it happened. She also suggests reaching out to East River Legal Services as a good starting point for information.