How Are Overpayments of Unemployment Benefits Handled?

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What happens when you have been paid too much in unemployment compensation, or your claim is denied and you're required to repay the funds you receive? An overpayment of unemployment benefits occurs when you receive unemployment compensation you were not eligible for.

Here's how overpayments are handled and what to expect if you were paid more in unemployment than you were entitled to receive.

Key Takeaways

  • In most cases, if you were overpaid unemployment benefits, you will be required to pay back the amount of the overpayment you received.
  • If you receive an overpayment notice, you can appeal or request a waiver. Check with your state unemployment office for how to handle the situation.
  • When an overpayment is due to a claimant providing false information, a monetary penalty can be assessed. The claimant may also forfeit some or all future benefits.

Overpayment of Unemployment Benefits

There are many reasons why a claim for unemployment benefits can be disqualified. You could have been overpaid because of an error or because you claimed benefits you were not entitled to receive. For example, some of the reasons a claimant might be overpaid include the following:

  • You made a mistake when claiming benefits.
  • You were not ready, willing, and able to work.
  • You did not complete the required work search activities.
  • You knowingly gave false or misleading information when filing a claim or claiming weekly benefits.

Another reason could be that your former employer successfully contested your unemployment claim because they did not believe you were eligible to collect benefits.

If this was the case, the state could have determined that you were not eligible for benefits. In most cases, you will be required to repay the unemployment compensation that was overpaid.

Notification of Overpayment

Your state unemployment office will notify you (typically by mail) if you have been overpaid. The notice will explain the reason you are getting the overpayment notice, how much you owe, penalties (if applicable), information on how to appeal, and instructions on repaying the amount you have been overpaid.

How Is the Overpayment Repaid?

In most cases, you will be asked to repay the overpayment. You may be asked to send a check for the balance of the overpayment. If you can't repay it all at once, you may be able to negotiate a payment plan.

Otherwise, if you are entitled to further benefits, you may be able to use those benefits to repay the overpayment.

Forfeiture of Future Benefits

In some states, you will forfeit days or weeks of unemployment to make up what for you owe. For example, in New York, you will lose 25% of your benefits for that week for every forfeit day that is assessed, so if you have four forfeit days, you would receive no benefits for that week.

If you have not made an adequate arrangement for repayment, the money that you owe may be seized from your paycheck (if you are working), lottery winnings, or federal and state tax refunds.


If the overpayment was because of fraud, you may be charged a penalty and possibly charged with criminal fraud. Also, you may be banned from collecting future unemployment benefits.

Appeals and Waivers

Asking for a Waiver

If you believe the notice is not accurate, you can appeal the decision. If you were overpaid because of an error, you might be able to ask for a waiver to avoid repaying all or some of the benefits you received by mistake. In most cases, you will have to prove financial hardship to receive a waiver or to negotiate a payment plan.

Filing an Appeal

In most states, you will be entitled to a hearing to consider your appeal. A hearing is an informal proceeding held before an administrative law judge. Based on the evidence presented at the hearing, the judge will decide whether you are entitled to—or eligible for—unemployment insurance benefits.

At the hearing, you, your employer, and any witnesses for either side may testify. The testimony will be recorded. Either side can also present papers or other physical evidence.

Review the Process

Instructions on filing an unemployment benefits appeal will be listed on your state's unemployment website. You may be able to file an appeal online, by fax, by mail, in person, or by phone.

Check State Law

State unemployment laws contain general and state-specific information on unemployment overpayment, unemployment compensation, and benefits. Contact your state unemployment office for a determination of your specific circumstances and clarification about how overpayment is handled in your state. Remember that state laws vary.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do I have to repay an overpayment of unemployment benefits?

You are legally obligated to repay the amount you were overpaid in unemployment benefits. If you appeal or request a waiver that is denied, you'll need to pay your state unemployment department the amount of the overpayment.

Is there a penalty when you are overpaid unemployment benefits?

If you made false statements or withheld information to obtain unemployment benefits, you may be charged a penalty by the state unemployment department. You can also be charged with fraud.

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  1. New York State Department of Labor. "Overpayment and Penalties."

  2. U.S. Department of Labor. "Unemployment Insurance Overpayment Waivers."

  3. U.S. Department of Labor. "Benefit Denials."

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