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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

Iowa man unable to work asked to pay back 3 months' worth of unemployment benefits

Coronavirus continues to affect people's lives and keep the more vulnerable from returning to work.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Many Iowans are filing for unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, but what if the unemployment office asked for that money back? 

Walt Oldham is 74 years old. He has Stage 4 kidney failure, congestive heart failure, diabetes and COPD. 

Because of this, he self-isolated in fear of catching COVID-19

He filed for unemployment for three months. 

Now, he said the State of Iowa wants that money back: $726 for each week he received them over a span of three months. 

"It would bankrupt me," Oldham said. "It's the money I've had to live on without having any ability to work."

Walt and his attorney Leonard Bates said the state claims Walt left his job voluntarily.

Back in April, Iowa Workforce Development Director Beth Townsend said, "If you are recalled to work and choose not to return, you may lose eligibility for unemployment benefits."

Local 5 reached back out to the unemployment office and they said due to scheduling they were unable to do an interview.

When asked if not going back to work would be considered to be a voluntary leave, Oldham's attorney said, "Absolutely not. There's nothing voluntary about how this pandemic is forcing people, like Walt, out of their jobs."

"If you received benefits and you are deemed not to be eligible for those benefits you have to pay them back," Stuart Higgins, attorney at Higgins Law Firm, said. 

So what if this is happening to you? 

"From what I understand, the notices are going out by mail,"  Higgins said. "And typically speaking, you have 10 days from the mailing date of that notice to file an appeal."

Here's what you need to file an appeal: Your name, address, and social security number and the reason for your appeal.

Oldham and his attorney said they have filed an appeal and their appeal hearing is next week.

Now if you file an appeal and get a hearing, you may represent yourself or have an attorney with you. 

RELATED: Social distancing, masks and business bankruptcies: We just hit 6 months of coronavirus in US

Iowa's unemployment rate was 8% back in June, but that number can vary by county.

Here's a look at the unemployment rate in every Iowa county from Iowa workforce development.

Iowa Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) Dashboard

Des Moines County in the bottom-right corner has the highest unemployment rate with 11%.

Next is Winnebago County with 10.1 and Scott with 9.8.

Polk County comes in at No. 4 with 9.6%.

Lyon County in the top-left corner has the lowest unemployment rate with 3.2%.

Stay tuned to Local 5 on Thursday for the latest unemployment numbers

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