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States owe feds for unemployment relief

MILWAUKEE, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- Twenty-seven states owe the government more than $33 billion that was borrowed to pay unemployment benefits in recent years, data shows.

At the top of the list, California owes $8.6 billion. Alabama, at the bottom of the list, owes $23 million, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Monday.

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Behind California, Michigan owes $3.14 billion, New York $2.89 billion and Pennsylvania $2.8 billion. Ohio, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Florida and New Jersey round out the top 10.

States are covering the bills with a variety of strategies. In Wisconsin, which ranked 11th, employers who paid unemployment insurance tax on the first $13,000 of an employee's wages will pay on the first $14,000 in 2013. A week long waiting period for first-time benefits will kick in Jan. 1 with a mandate that recipients sign up for job seeking services.

In addition, the state is getting better at tracking down and recovering overpayments.

The state estimates it has overpaid recipients $100 million. The state now recovers 79 percent of the overpayments after recovering $31 million in 2009 and $35.3 million in 2010.

For 2011, from the first of the year through Oct. 18, Wisconsin has recouped $36.1 million, the newspaper said.

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