Governments' Lighter Side

Now, this is a REALLY past due notice

Massachusetts woman gets a bill from New Jersey, 35 years later

The Internal Revenue Service has a reputation for being dogged in pursuit of a debt, but they’ve got nothing on New Jersey. Just ask Alice Mainville. The former municipal councilor for Amesbury, Mass., recently received a dun notice from New Jersey’s Department of Labor for a $73 debt — from 35 years ago.

The collection notice came, Mainville told the The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass., because New Jersey claims it gave her too much money in an unemployment check. Mainville has likely spent the money by now, since the check was cut when she was a 17-year-old high school student.

She had a job as a clerk in a bakery. A strike by the Teamsters union shut the bakery down. Mainville wasn’t a member of the Teamsters, so she was eligible to collect unemployment.

But wait: New Jersey says it calculated her unemployment check incorrectly. And the state wants the $73 back.

Mainville first got a bill due notice last fall addressed to her maiden name. But it didn’t have a Social Security number, and she thought it was intended for her late mother, whom she is named after. Then she got a second letter, which included her Social Security number.

Mainville has lived in Amesbury since 1989, serving as the city’s councilor from 1996 to 1999. She is amazed, and a bit peeved, by New Jersey’s persistence. “What blows me away is that any time or energy went to collecting a $73 debt,” she told the newspaper.

New Jersey, though, is insistent. There is no bad debt “write-off” for unemployment payments, a state spokesperson said, and “once a debt is established, it remains in effect until repaid.”

Mainville isn’t backing down either. She won’t pay, she says — not until New Jersey proves that it overpaid her. 

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It is an irreverent take on local and state government news.

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008 graduate of Furman University...
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