Unemployment kept Stephen afloat when COVID-19 forced him to close his restaurant. Then, he feared it would bankrupt him when the state told him he had to repay $11,000 because of a paperwork mistake.

“It was just — [my] jaw dropped,” Stephen told Todd Bookman of New Hampshire Public Radio. “Literally, I think my mouth opened up pretty wide. My eyes got a little watery. I might have made a shrieking sound.”

When the state refused to review the case again, Stephen called legal aid. A legal aid attorney persuaded the state to reconsider its decision. Stephen actually owed the state nothing.

In New Hampshire, more than 10,000 people who collected unemployment during the pandemic have received notices demanding they repay some or all of the money they received, according to New Hampshire Public Radio. Unemployment benefit overpayments happen for a variety of reasons, including good-faith mistakes on the complicated forms. But in many cases, especially because of how complicated the new pandemic-related programs are, these notices are incorrect.

Civil legal aid can help people appeal, like we did for Stephen.