Montana Code Annotated 2023



Part 32. General Penalties

Collection Of Benefit Overpayments

39-51-3206. Collection of benefit overpayments. (1) A person who receives benefits not authorized by this chapter shall repay to the department either directly or, as authorized by the department, by offset of future benefits to which the claimant may be entitled, or by a combination of both methods, a sum equal to the amount of the overpayment.

(2) The department may collect a benefit overpayment and any penalty:

(a) by having the claimant pay the amount owed directly to the department by check, money order, credit card, debit card, or electronic funds transfer;

(b) by offsetting the amount of the overpaid benefits owed against future unemployment benefits to be received by the claimant; or

(c) as provided in 39-51-3208.

(3) The claimant is responsible for any:

(a) penalty established in accordance with 39-51-3201;

(b) costs or processing fees associated with using the repayment methods set out in subsection (2)(a); and

(c) costs or processing fees associated with obtaining an offset as provided in subsection (7)(a).

(4) (a) The department may enter into an agreement with a claimant for:

(i) the repayment of any benefit overpayment and penalty if repayment in full is made within 5 years of the date that it was established that an overpayment occurred; or

(ii) a lump-sum repayment to collect a benefit overpayment if the benefit overpayment was not the result of a false claim, a misrepresentation, or failure to disclose a material fact by the claimant.

(b) The agreement must provide that:

(i) the lump-sum repayment amount is more than 50% of the amount due; and

(ii) the remaining unpaid amount of the benefit overpayment is a debt that is forgiven if the claimant does not, in conjunction with a claim for unemployment benefits, make a false claim or misrepresentation or fail to disclose a material fact during the 2-year period following the claimant's repayment of the lump-sum amount agreed to in subsection (4)(a)(ii).

(5) (a) Except as provided in subsection (5)(b), a benefit offset may not exceed 50% of the weekly benefits to which a claimant is entitled unless the claimant gives consent.

(b) In cases of theft or fraud or when benefit overpayments have been made to winners of a state lottery as provided in 39-51-3208, benefits may be offset by as much as 100% of the weekly benefits to which a claimant is entitled.

(6) (a) The department may collect any benefit overpayment and penalty by directing the offset of any funds due the claimant from the state, except future unemployment benefits as provided in subsection (1) and retirement benefits. The department, through the department of revenue or through the state lottery and sports wagering commission established in 23-7-201 if overpayment is to be collected as provided in 39-51-3208, shall provide the claimant with notice of the right to request a hearing on the offset action. A request for hearing must be made within 30 days of the date of the notice.

(b) The debt does not have to be determined to be uncollectible before being transferred for offset.

(7) (a) The department may direct the offset of funds owed to a person under 26 U.S.C. 6402 if the person owes a covered unemployment compensation benefit debt.

(b) For the purposes of this subsection (7), "covered unemployment compensation benefit debt" means a benefit overpayment and penalty that has been adjudicated as a debt under Montana law and has remained uncollected and that is owed because of:

(i) the erroneous payment of unemployment compensation resulting from the person's own fraud; or

(ii) the person's failure to report earnings, irrespective of whether this failure constitutes fraud.

(8) If, upon demand of the department, the claimant fails to make the payments provided for in this section, the unpaid benefit overpayment and associated penalty may be treated as a judgment against the claimant at the time the payments become due. The department may issue a certificate setting forth the amount of payment due and direct the clerk of the district court of any county in the state to enter the certificate as a judgment on the docket pursuant to 25-9-301. From the time the judgment is docketed, it becomes a lien upon all real property of the claimant. The department may enforce the judgment at any time within 10 years of creation of the lien.

(9) The department may waive the benefit overpayment if the department finds that:

(a) the claimant did not conceal or misrepresent material facts to obtain the overpaid benefits and that recovery of the benefit overpayment would cause a long-term financial hardship on the claimant; or

(b) the overpayment was the result of department error.

(10) An action for collection of overpaid benefits must be brought within 5 years after the date of the overpayment.

(11) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the department may recover an overpayment of benefits paid to any individual under the laws of this state or another state or under an unemployment benefit program of the United States.

History: En. Sec. 16, Ch. 137, L. 1937; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 150, L. 1951; amd. Sec. 7, Ch. 164, L. 1955; amd. Sec. 10, Ch. 156, L. 1961; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 38, L. 1969; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 17, L. 1975; amd. Sec. 30, Ch. 368, L. 1975; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 240, L. 1977; R.C.M. 1947, 87-145(6); amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 57, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 50, Ch. 397, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 349, L. 1981; amd. Sec. 24, Ch. 234, L. 1987; amd. Sec. 56, Ch. 83, L. 1989; amd. Sec. 7, Ch. 171, L. 1993; amd. Sec. 10, Ch. 61, L. 1999; amd. Sec. 19, Ch. 88, L. 2009; amd. Sec. 10, Ch. 123, L. 2011; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 81, L. 2015; amd. Sec. 23, Ch. 284, L. 2019.