Update: State Decides Man No Longer Needs To Repay $19K In Unemployment Benefits

Back in April we told you about a New Jersey man who was stuck in a bureaucratic battle between church and state, as he tried to figure out why he needed to repay more than $19,000 in unemployment benefits he’d believed he was entitled to. After pulling their heads out of the sand at the shore, officials have realized the man was right all along.

For those coming late to this story: The man had previously worked at a company owned by a Catholic diocese in Camden, NJ. When he started at the job, his employer did not enjoy non-profit status, meaning it had to pay and collect unemployment benefit payments from employees.

At some point while he worked there, things changed and the company became a non-profit operation. However, the company continued to take out unemployment insurance payments from the man’s paycheck.

For some reason, it wasn’t until after the man had received $19,295 in unemployment benefits that the state realized there was an issue.

The problem was compounded when the diocese tried to claim that it stopped collecting unemployment insurance payments from staffers when it switched the service business to non-profit status. However, the man had documentation showing he made payments for several months after the status change.

The diocese also mistakenly told the state that the man had been employed at a non-profit, diocese-owned nursing facility. This led the state to believe he should never have received unemployment benefits in the first place.

When we told you the man’s story, his initial appeal had been denied by the Orwell-esque Appeals Tribunal. But after continued pressure from the Newark Star-Ledger’s Bamboozled column, the situation ended up on the desk of a Deputy Commissioner who apparently has a brain in his head and knows how to read; the Appeals Tribunal’s decision was set aside and the man ultimately prevailed.

“I was so stunned,” the man tells Bamboozled. “He said, ‘Your claim is valid.’ He told me I don’t owe them any money,” Holt said. “He said a lot of things took place that shouldn’t have happened, and he’s putting measures in place to make sure they don’t happen again.”

Of course, if anyone had just looked the man’s documents in the first place, this wouldn’t have happened at all.

Bamboozled: After query, man needn’t repay jobless benefits [NJ.com]