I-Team 8

Attorney: Time for Indiana to cut people slack on unemployment benefit repayments

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — While many across Indiana are being forced to pay tens of thousand of unemployment benefits back, some are considering paying attorneys to help them in the appeal process.

But, the extra fees are infeasible for a majority of unemployed Hoosiers.

“What I’m hearing is anywhere from $3,000 on the low end to $33,000 on the high end” in pandemic unemployment benefits that Indiana Department of Workforce Development wants returned, said Shannon Melton, an unemployment attorney with John H. Haskin & Associates employment law firm in Indianapolis. “You can hear through the phone their anxiety and their frustration with the system.”

Melton gave I-Team 8 these tips for people to follow if they cannot afford to hire attorneys:

  • Pay attention to correspondence.
  • Check the Department of Workforce Development portal daily because claimants will only have from 10-15 days to file appeals.
  • Do not miss the deadline to get documents submitted for the appeal.
  • Keep receipts of any documents that are faxed or mailed.
  • Appeal hearings are typically done over the phone; do not miss the call.

“Don’t let that phone call go by,” Melton said. “We’ve had those phone calls where they missed the phone call and then (the appeal decision) came out against them.” 

Melton says he believes Workforce Development should create a waiver system for pandemic unemployment benefit repayments, something other Midwest states have done. “Maybe make the determination that this was a really bad event. It was nationwide, globalwide issue, and maybe cut people a break.”

Still, Melton points out, Indiana has a waiver system that’s not specific to pandemic unemployment benefits. He says people receiving pandemic unemployment benefits should still try to file for waivers and exhaust all their options.

“There’s no way to force the state to go faster on these things,” Melton said. “Don’t give up. That’s what we’ve told people several times: Don’t give up.” 

Below is the full interview with Shannon Melton, an unemployment attorney with John H. Haskin & Associates employment law firm in Indianapolis. App users can find the video online.

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