Some self-employed workers have to pay back benefits received

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Tens of thousands of New Mexicans have been out of work because of the coronavirus. Some are self-employed who have applied for federal unemployment benefits, but recently, some of those recipients got a surprising notice saying they owe some benefit money back.

“Yes, I’m self-employed,” said D’Ette Kellner. “I do hair by day and I’m actually in a band so I do that at night.” Kellner has been styling hair and makeup in Albuquerque for seven years and like many people, the coronavirus has put a hold on her work.

In April, she applied for the federal pandemic unemployment assistance which gives benefits to self-employed and independent contractors. But she got an email saying she owes $2,000 back because she was overpaid.

“It is super frustrating, I’ve been without a job for the past two months,” said Kellner. “So the money we did get was a saving grace to pay rent, your bills and things but to turn around and be like ‘oh we’re gonna need that back’ is kind of a hard pill to swallow.”

The notice didn’t say why she owes it, but according to officials, there could be a couple of possibilities. “The most common reason for this scenario is because we don’t have the 2019 tax information from that person yet,” said New Mexico Secretary of Workforce Solutions, Bill McCamley.

The state said most people filed their 2018 tax return info, but Kellner said she filed her 2019 tax return information and still got the notice. “For people who have uploaded their 2019 taxes, the amount they’ve put in their application and the amount they’re taxed on do not add up,” said McCamley.

The state said they wanted to give out relief money quickly to these workers, so they took people’s word and gave out what people claimed they earned in 2019. But if there was a discrepancy with what people claimed they earned, that could be why some people now owe. The Department said they’re not sure how many New Mexicans got similar notices because the number of people for these benefits changes every day.

New Mexico Coronavirus Resources

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