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GOOD FAITH MISTAKE OF RECEIVING DOUBLE UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS IS NO DEFENSE

The New Jersey Appellate Division recently affirmed a decision of the Appeal Tribunal and the Board of Review denying a claimant from receiving New Jersey emergency unemployment compensation under the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 2008, 26 U.S.C.A. 3304 because the claimant collected unemployment benefits from New York for the same time period. As a result, the claimant was ordered to refund a total of $15,300 in New Jersey unemployment benefit payments that she received for the period of time that she was also collecting New York unemployment benefits.

In the unpublished decision of Marasco v. Board of Review Department of Labor and AT&T Wireless, the claimant, Kimberly Ann Marasco, was employed in several different positions in New Jersey and New York from the period 2006 to 2008. The employment positions included working for Spherion Professional Services in New Jersey, AT&T in Morristown, New Jersey and Tact Medical Staffing in New York City. After being laid off from working at Tact Medical Staffing for approximately one month, Ms. Marasco filed for New Jersey unemployment benefits on February 1, 2009. After her New Jersey unemployment benefits had exhausted by in July, 2009, Ms. Marasco then applied and became eligible to receive emergency unemployment compensation under the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act of 2008. Ms. Marasco exhausted the maximum emergency unemployment compensation she could receive in January 23, 2010, which totaled $15,300.

Thereafter, it was determined by the New Jersey Division of Unemployment and Disability Insurance that Ms. Marasco was entitled to receive regular unemployment benefits from the State of New York and informed the New York unemployment benefit authorities to back date the regular payments to July 20, 2009. As a result, Ms. Marasco collected benefits from New York for the same time period that she had also been collecting emergency unemployment compensation from New Jersey.

After Ms. Marasco began receiving unemployment benefits from New York, the New Jersey Division of Unemployment then reexamined her application for New Jersey emergency unemployment compensation and found that she was not entitled to receive these benefits because she was receiving New York unemployment benefits. As a result, Ms. Marasco was ordered to refund $15,300 to the State of New Jersey. Ms. Marasco applied the determination.

The Appeal Tribunal and Board of Review both determined that Ms. Marasco was ineligible to receive the New Jersey emergency unemployment benefits because she received New York unemployment benefits for the same period. In her appeal, Ms. Marasco argued that she did not intentionally seek to receive double benefits, the error was made by the State of New Jersey and that it would be unfair and create a great financial hardship on her if she was forced to refund the $15,300 back to New Jersey.

While recognizing that Ms. Marasco did not commit any fraud in connection with her claim for New Jersey unemployment benefits, New Jersey unemployment law was clear that was not legally entitled to receive the benefits and that the unemployment laws mandate that she make full repayment of the unemployment benefits she received that she was not entitled. The fact that Ms. Marasco acted in good faith was of no moment to the Appellate Division and she now must return $15,300 in overpaid unemployment benefits back to New Jersey.