New Jersey Goes After Woman For $73 Debt From 1977

Thirty-five years ago, the state of New Jersey accidentally overpaid on a teenager’s unemployment claim to the tune of $73. Now the Garden State wants that money back.

The woman being hit up for the ancient debt says she was working at a bakery at the time. The Teamsters went on strike, which resulted in her being laid off for a few weeks, all the while collecting unemployment.

“Being in high school, I thought that was pretty cool,” she tells the Newburyport News. “What blows me away is that any time or energy went to collecting a $73 debt. Surely, there’s something more lucrative for the state to pursue.”

The woman says she never received a single notice about the debt until last fall.

But a rep for the New Jersey Dept. of Labor tells the News that “Once a debt is established, it remains in effect until repaid. When we get a new, valid address, we send a refund notice to that new address.”

Given the sheer number of years since the state made the error, and the lack of any real explanation for how the error was discovered, the woman says she has no intention of paying that $73 back to New Jersey.

NJ has Amesbury woman on hook for decades-old $73 debt [Newburyportnews.com]

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  1. Bort says:

    I find it interesting there is no inflation adjustment or interest being requested.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      I find it interesting there is not accountability on the part of the state to show exactly how it originally screwed up the calculations. If it were Ms. Mainville’s fault for providing wrong information, for example, then I bet they would be very quick to point out her failures. But that appears to not be what happened. So it is New Jersey’s fault (in particular, that agency).

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

        IIRC from when I was on unemployment, you claim for the week of and the future week. What I would wager happened is that she returned to work, but still recieved a check for that week. The state probably was digitizing their records and noticed that she had a withdrawl from her paycheck for the state taxes for a period that overlapped what she had been paid in unemployment.

        • chizu says:

          Maybe it was different back then, but I’m (unfortunately) filing for it currently and I have to file what I was paid/how much I work the past two weeks. The next time I file is next week, so I’ll be reporting what I made last week and what I (will be) make this week.

    • regis-s says:

      That’s what I was thinking too.

      Maybe she would be wiser to just pay it. She probably doesn’t want to piss them off and have them decide to add forty years worth of penalties and interest to it.

      I wonder how the state would feel if someone could show they were underpaid UI benefits in 1977? Somehow I think the state would consider it too late for the person to collect in that case.

    • some.nerd says:

      I know! I let a parking ticket go a few months without paying and it went from $25 to $75… what a rip!

  2. dorianh49 says:

    She should pay it all in 1977 pennies.

  3. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

    At least they aren’t charging her interest. As for how the error was discovered, I bet the state is computerizing their records, and this is allowing them to catch errors that may have been previously missed.

    As for not paying the debt, I would like to see if they state owed HER money, and she found out, if she feels the same arguement would be valid to dismiss her.

    • denros says:

      If you’re going to present an “if the tables were turned” argument, you have to take into account what the equivalent $73 would be to a person (vs an entire state… new jersey no less). It would be like her finding out that the state owed her an extra 7.3 cents on her tax return, i doubt all but the most scrooge mcduckerly of citizens would choose to just move on with their ever-so-slightly financially disenfranchised lives.

      • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

        No, it’s $73. Is money to the government worth less than money to the public? Supposed your job decides that you aren’t worth full pay to them, but instead decides that you are worth 75% of a dollar. Just move on.

        • shepd says:

          Yes, government money is worth less. If the government valued it, they wouldn’t print more of it.

          • Doubting thomas says:

            The state of New jersey does not print money. SteveDave is correct. Money is money. If I make $500,000.00 a year and you make $20,000.00 a year a loaf of bread costs us both the same amount of money. We don;t get to the register and I pay $20.00 while you pay $1.00.
            To act like the government is some foreign entity who should just pay up and never collect is stunningly ignorant. That money has to come from somewhere, in this case it comes from the taxpayers of New Jersey.

        • Conformist138 says:

          But it’s not fair when comparing the sizes of the budgets. When talking about the financial impact or burden of the debt, it is fair to reduce the state budget (or even just the portion meant for unemployment) down to the size of an average individual. This is very much like a person demanding a nickel 30 years later.

          • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

            Sorry person who is collecting unemployment. You don’t need $73 in your check because we’re BIG government. That amount is like a nickle, so we won’t give it to you.

            • CartmanPat says:

              Your conservative schtick is always fun to watch. It’s cute that you seem to believe it.

    • the real napster says:

      your argument is invalid. If a person discovered that they were owed money $ I imagine the statue of limitations for filing a claim would have expired long long ago. And that should be the case here.

      • Rob says:

        Actually in my state there is a department for unclaimed funds (anything from unclaimed bank account balances to unused gift card balances) . There is no statute of limitations. They have an unclaimed insurance policy dividend from my father who passed away 13 years ago. All I have to do is file the paperwork to claim it. But for the small amount that it is, it really isn’t worth the time and expense to get the death certificate, the probate court letter, have by brother (who was executor) sign the claim form then split it four ways amongst me and my siblings.

  4. Lyn Torden says:

    New jersey is a crooked state, anyway. I know, because I used to live there. I was soon hunting for a new job anywhere but in New Jersey. But in this case I double it was anything majorly crooked, unless you count bad computer programing. That’s likely the cause of this undocumented error.

  5. MaryK says:

    Isn’t there a statute of limitations on these sorts of things?

  6. Bruce W says:

    Good thing that they are not asking for an adjustment in 2012 dollars because that would come to $276.52!

    Is there no statue of limitations?

    • Lyn Torden says:

      Statute of limitations would apply to using the courts to order a payment and authorize garnishment.

      In this case, given that it was the state itself that made an error, the state should be required to explain how the error was made, document who was fired for making the error, and explain the methods by which the state will ensure that this kind of thing will not (and did not from 1978 to present) happen again.

  7. cbutler says:

    Statute of Limitations, the end.

    North Carolina tried to pull this shit a year ago in my dad. They somehow recently tracked him down and tried to see of they could sucker him into paying a ticket he got in the 80′s for rolling at a stop sign. I told him to tell them you aren’t paying it (Claim SOL) and that was that.

    • TinaBringMeTheAx says:

      Well, there is no SOL on taxes, so…maybe not on this sort of debt.

    • swearint says:

      Funny, SOL means something entirely different to me. Although, what I first thought fit just as well.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

      So North Carolina laws apply to NJ?

      What was the outcome with your Dad’s case. Did he actually pay, or claim SOL like you instructed him to do?

    • az123 says:

      Um, that is not how SOL works, that is the amount of time that limits for someone to actually charge someone for a crime. For example, someone steals something and they have no idea who committed the crime. A SOL exists saying that they have 2 years to charge someone for that crime. If they don’t charge anyone and find the person 3 years later they cannot charge them. If they figure out who did it, charge them for it after 1 year and then don’t find and arrest the person for 2 more years, they can still go after them.

      So if you were issued a ticket then, unless there is a given law in your state, you need to pay it and SOL does not apply.

      • Theoncomingstorm says:

        You do know that statute of limitations also applies to monies owned, right? In california, a debt collector has four years to collect on said debt.

        • BBBB says:

          “… In california, a debt collector has four years to collect on said debt.”

          After the statute of limitations is up, the debt collector can no longer use the courts to collect the debt, but you still owe it and they can still try to convince you to pay it.

          Some government obligations are exempted from the statute of limitations – each state is different.

          • cyberpenguin says:

            That’s where a lot of people get in trouble with default judgements.

            After the SoL has expired, they can still use the courts and file a lawsuit. However, you can assert laches as an equitable defense.

            But, if you just assume that the SoL protects you and don’t show up to assert the defense they can get a default judgement against you.

            • coffee100 says:

              Motion to set aside the judgement. Granted.
              Motion to dismiss. Granted.

              Former defendant files a $xx,xxx lawsuit for abuse of process.

            • BBBB says:

              And that is why the filings always include an enormous interest, fees, and expenses to the amount. While it probably isn’t worth the effort to go to court for a $150 debt, the $2500 in add-ons that go uncontested if the defendant doesn’t show up IS worth it.

      • tjthayer says:

        There most certainly is a statute of limitations on debt. SOL is not limited to “crimes”.

        That being said, not sure about *this* debt. I assume the state knows what they’re doing. But, credit card debt, loans – or any other debt based upon an “agreement” – has an SOL.

      • ARP says:

        The term you’re looking for is Statue of Repose. You must act upon a claim within a certain amount of time or its eventually waived.

  8. skakh says:

    Christie needs the money. Cheeseburgers are getting costly, even for the portly Gov.

    • sufreak says:

      I despise the governor as well. But when people make nothing but fat jokes, it undermines the actual things he’s doing wrong.

      • tbax929 says:

        This. Also, it makes you look like an asshole. Criticize someone for real things they’ve done not because you’re a judgmental fattist.

        • eyesack is the boss of the DEFAMATION ZONE says:

          Chris Christie is fat.

          • Snowblind says:

            Chris Christe is PHAT!

            Seriously. he is a bad ass. All 150lbs of it.

            He manages to piss off Liberals and conservatives alike…

            He must be doing something right!

            • DFManno says:

              Getting everybody mad at you doesn’t prove you’re doing right. It could just as well mean you’re a colossal asshole.

  9. sufreak says:

    I am hoping that they’re prioritizing their debt collection by amount owed, and they’re just near the lower part of the list.
    C’mon NJ. Get it together. Get the most return for your effort….

    • Doubting thomas says:

      Why? Can the state only send one collection letter at a time? She owes the money they send a letter telling her to pay the money. Eventually it might reach one of many many courts in the state. Collecting from one debtor does absolutely nothing to stop or slow down the collection of other debts.

      • sufreak says:

        It depends on the effort needed. A simple letter, yes, that can be many.
        If there are people calling, etc, thats a different story.
        And considering how NJ likes to operate, I presume they send a single letter and then wait for a response before acting again.

  10. Shorebreak says:

    You had better be fearful that your Tony Soprano-like Governor Chris Christie doesn’t come a knocking at your door for the money.

  11. Hoss says:

    Great picture!

  12. CubeRat says:

    Multnomah County, Oregon is trying to collect money from my father; he died in 2005. We’ve tried to tell them and given them a copy of the death certificate, but they keep trying to collect the money. We have no plans to pay the county.

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      Change of address to the local cemetary. “In care of Myra Mains”

    • Lyn Torden says:

      You should attend the county government meeting and take your opportunity to speak for however long they allow … and make it short and sweet by telling everyone that the county continues to waste taxpayer money by trying to collect debts from dead people.

      • CubeRat says:

        Well, I live in California now, so that will not work. I think that the county just hopes that if they bug us enough, we’ll pay it. Originally, my brother got the letters, but as he is now working overseas, he has his mail forwarded to me. I help him with all his stuff here. Honestly, I do not believe the debt is legitimate, as I took care of my father’s financed since my mother passed away (11 years before). I asked the county for details of the debt, but they refuse to advise me as I am not a party to it…..they want me to pay it though. I know I’m a blond, but still…. LOL

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

      Do debts in that state die with the person, or does the estate take on obligations of debt?

  13. Bodger says:

    Presumably there have been quite a number of state employees and elected officials during the years 1977-2012 who’s job it was to collect any monies due. To be fair, the state needs to fire all of them if they are still on the payroll, terminate the retirements of the others, and collect all back pay for the period. Then it would seem quite fair to hit the lady up for the $73.

    • JJFIII says:

      That is a ridiculous argument. The state employs people to collect money owed. In the world of collections, the biggest collection amounts are the ones that get pursued most aggressively. If you owe $70 and there are thousands of other cases worth far more, your opinion is the state employee should fix the $70 person and not the $700 or $7000. The fact that it is so small, means it is likely they did not spend a great deal of time or effort trying to track her down. They may have sent a statement or letter to her last known address, but I would be more upset if they spent huge sums to do a skip trace on a $73 debt.
      The fact that the amount owed is so small is actually a POSITIVE in my mind, If I see a case with much larger sums, then I would be concerned.

      • Bodger says:

        No. My idea is that employees should do their jobs thoroughly every time, without fail. In a span of 35 years they should have either collected or written the account off as a lost cause and moved on to more pressing matters. Now they are just wasting time and money trying to do something that should have been accomplished long ago or forgotten about. What they are doing now just makes the government of New Jersey look like a bunch of asses. Err, never mind. This is New Jersey we’re talking about…

        • chargernj says:

          Have you ever done anything without fail for 35 years straight? I would hate to have you for my boss.

      • Peggee is deeply offended by impetulant, pernicious little snots disrespecting her and violating her personal space at Best Buy. says:

        …your opinion is the state employee should fix the $70 person and not the $700 or $7000.

        Is there some reason why they can’t do both? Like someone else pointed out, it’s not like you can only work on collecting one debt at a time and can’t move on to the next highest amount until that one is thoroughly resolved.

  14. sirwired says:

    Is the debt valid? Is there a statute of limitations on overpaid unemployment checks? If the answers are yes and no, respectively, then why NOT pay?

    • msbask says:

      I’d be curious to see their backup evidence of how/why they overpaid in the first place.

      Can you also imagine her contacting the state to tell them that they UNDERpaid her 30 years ago and she wants her money? That’d laugh her right out of the place.

  15. RandomLetters says:

    While she lived and worked in NJ did she pay in more or less than the amount she received in benefits from unemployment? IMO if the amount she paid in was $73 more than the amount she received then the state needs to write that debt off seeing how she’s no longer living there and won’t be drawing from their unemployment fund again. (I’m assuming each state maintains its own fund and there’s not one large pool that all the states pay in to.)

  16. tjthayer says:

    There most certainly is a statute of limitations on debt. SOL is not limited to “crimes”.

    That being said, not sure about *this* debt. I assume the state knows what they’re doing. But, credit card debt, loans – or any other debt based upon an “agreement” – has an SOL.

  17. spartan says:

    Maybe she paid it back in 1978, does the state have records that show that?

    What I would like to know is what rights of appeal she had in 1977. How is it determined that teh payment was mistaken? Was she laid off because if a strike, or in spite of it?. If they never told her she was entitled to an appeal in 1977, isn’t she entitled to one today? And if she doesn’t have her papers from 1977 (who does?) what law is she violating by not saving them?

    I suggest she demand an appeal, Let NK Prove it.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDave‚Ñ¢ says:

      Did you read the article? She worked in a Union shop. One of the others Unions went on strike. The others Unions couldn’t cross their picket lines, so she was unable to work.

      What likely happened is she was paid for an additional week of unemployment AFTER she was already back at work. You usually do not find out about overpayments right away, so there is little chance she “paid it back” back then. I would bet NJ(and NK) have the evidence that she was overpaid, as they would have her tax records from that period.

  18. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I know she has no intentions of paying this, but if it were me, I’d be worried they’d send this to a collection agency next and ruin my credit.

  19. Press1forDialTone says:

    This is a perfect example of why states run by RepubliThugs(tm) are so screwed up.

    • Torgonius wants an edit button says:

      And you should have seen how much worse it was under DummyCrat Corzine. Nothing quite like negotiating sweet deals with the main state workers’ union when you’re banging their horsefaced leader.

      Of course, we see how well he did once he got back to the private sector, too.

    • ARP says:

      Sorry, this could have happened under any politician’s watch. Most likely, they’re digitizing old records, or implmenting new systems. It also dates back to the 70′s, that’s a lot of administrations. There’s lots of reasons to not like Christie, this really isn’t one of them.

    • Doubting thomas says:

      are you so shockingly ignorant that you think NJ has been run solely by Republicans for 40 years. Or are you just so focused on blaming all the nations problems on your chosen boogeyman that you are incapable of rational thought?

  20. duncanblackthorne says:

    Next up: New Jersey woman shocked to be charged interest on a $73 unemployment insurance overpayment from 1977, is arrested for fraud when she refuses to pay.

  21. Kestris says:

    All I did was read the title out loud and the husband suddenly can’t stop giggling.

    Something about being from New Jersey and all you can do is laugh…

  22. Quake 'n' Shake says:

    If you’re going to start collecting undeserved awards from 1977, then I suggest you start with Starland Vocal Band’s “Best New Artist” Grammy.

  23. Snoofin says:

    Id just like to know how in the hell she was given unemployment compensation in the first time since the reason she was unemployed was because of a strike that she partook in. She couldve continued working as a scab if she wanted money, but she shouldnt have been given unemployment. I think she pay back ALL the money they gave her

    • Kestris says:

      RTFA.

      She didn’t participate in the strikes- the Teamsters went on strike, and caused the bakery to shut down. So neither she, not any of the other clerks and bakers could work.

      Being unable to work because your place of employment is closed due to pertinant employees striking and affecting a crucial part of the daily operations in no way means you participate in the strike, nor would it make you a scab if you could work, as it wasn’t your union on strike.

    • TRRosen says:

      um she wasn’t on strike. she was laid off due to it.

  24. damicatz says:

    Typical government do as I say not as I do.

    If this was a private debt, the statute of limitations would have already expired. But of course, being the government, they don’t have to follow the laws.

    Government : We rape and pillage and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it because we make the laws.

    • JJFIII says:

      Actually the government is following the LAW. They are not following what the law is for PRIVATE debt because this is public debt. I wonder how you would feel if it were say Bill Gates who failed to pay INCOME tax and the IRS did not find him for 25 years. Should he be absolved from paying the money he owes based on the SOL? The fact that the government has no SOL is good for the OTHER taxpayers who did not game the system.

      • damicatz says:

        Um, you just proved my point.

        One set of laws for us and one set of laws for you.

        They probably spent more money just sending that letter out then the entire debt is worth.

        If Bill Gates got away without paying income tax, I would say bravo. It’s his money. He’s done more to help out charitable causes as a private individual than government ever will.

        • JJFIII says:

          If you can not understand why the COLLECTIVE laws regarding debt to the ENTIRE public versus to an individual entity you are not too bright. Collecting from a deadbeat who owes the state money is good for ALL in that state. There should be a separate set of laws for the government. If not, there could be no fire fighters, because any damage they do to a surrounding home during a fire could end up in a law suit. Police could not help at the scene of an accident for fear of being sued. How about this woman who does not deny owing the money PAY HER FUCKING BILL, and say thanks for not charging interest on it.

  25. maxamus2 says:

    What I don’t understand is this woman’s “reasoning”. Stating that since it has been a number of years and how the state doesn’t give an explanation for how the error was DISCOVERED (not that there is an error, but how the error was found out) and she has no intention of paying it back.

    Just because it is old debt and you are curious how they figured it out, that does not give you a get out of jail free card.

    Reading what little is printed here, it appears the woman always knew she was overpaid and now just seems upset that the state figured it out.

  26. BadIdeaSociety says:

    The woman should be elated that the state didn’t request that she pay off the debt plus interest.

    Since she admits that she was overpaid, I don’t understand why she feels enpowered to refuse payment.

  27. Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

    New Jersey: classiest state in the Union.

  28. bdgbill says:

    In 2009 my Florida drivers license was suspended because I failed to return my plates to the Massachusetts DMV when I moved away in 1989. The state had sold their backlog to some sleazy collections company. Cost me over $1000.00 to straighten it out and nearly lost my job over it.

  29. Excuse My Ambition Deficit Disorder says:

    “Once a debt is established, it remains in effect until repaid. When we get a new, valid address, we send a refund notice to that new address.”

    Wow, only took 23 years to establish that valid address. I’m very surprised there’s no type of late fee laid on that $73.

  30. thomwithanh says:

    “the woman says she has no intention of paying that $73 back to New Jersey”

    In New York the state would just take it out of your tax refund…