CHICAGO (CBS) — A series of CBS 2 reports is getting results for thousands of unemployed people in Illinois who were overpaid in benefits and then told to pay the money back to the state. Now finally federal money will fix a mistake Illinois should not have made in the first place.

Tara Molina is Working for Chicago — our commitment to telling the stories you need to hear as we all work to recover.

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Overpayment waivers, in cases where it was not a person’s fault they were overpaid benefits, were made possible through that relief, but it is help that took a while for Illinois to get in place.

Paying rent, buying groceries, and climbing out of debt, only to learn the money spent to do it is owed back: That’s the state’s unemployment overpayment issue in a nutshell.

Rimma Brodetsky issue was told she owes the state $8,000. 

“I feel for these people because I’m in the same boat,” she said.

A small business owner, Rimma is one of more than 40,000 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claimants, gig workers or self employed workers, in Illinois who got a questionnaire from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. It’s what they called the first step in requesting a waiver that would keep approved people from paying back overpayments — paying for mistakes made at the state level.

IDES issued the following full statement on the situation:

IDES has begun to make determinations on PUA recovery of overpayment waivers, beginning the week of March 18.

As of March 26, roughly 47,000 PUA claimants have requested a waiver of recovery of overpayment, and nearly 6,000 determinations have been made.  The Department is making determinations on a case-by-case basis, as required by federal law.  IDES is continuing to work to remove overpayments and issue refunds as appropriate to claimants who have been approved for an overpayment.  Information will be provided to claimants who have requested a PUA overpayment waiver, and they  should continue to monitor their claim for activity related to the overpayment waiver.

“The system takes awhile. I think it takes too long,” Rimma said.

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She has been waiting since July. She said me it took more than 100 calls and countless hours to get a letter saying the problem had been resolved.

“Nobody was doing anything about it. Up until now,” she said.

Rimma just got news that she has been approved.

“Any monies that you paid back or that were recouped from your benefits will be paid back to you,” the letter said.

“A big victory!” she said.

CBS 2 asked IDES how many of these letters have gone out. So far, Rimma is one of 6,000, according to the spokesperson for IDES. They have 41,000 more people to get to as they make decisions on a case by case basis, which is a federal requirement.

Rimma says she hasn’t seen a dime yet, but this sheet of paper is giving her the peace of mind she’s been waiting nine months for.

“I don’t think when I started it they were aware of how big this problem was,” she said.

This is still an ongoing process for the state. The IDES spokesperson said they are still working to remove overpayments and issue refunds while going over each individual claim.

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The state does not yet have a total of how much they expect to pay back overall.

Tara Molina