Denver County takes on teenage son of food stamp recipient for overpayment – CBS Denver
DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Human Services is asking a young man to repay $2,000 in food stamps he didn’t even receive. His mother applied for public assistance after losing her job during the pandemic, but social services say he is also responsible for reimbursement. He was an 18-year-old high school student at the time.
“I didn’t even know this was happening. I knew she was unemployed, but I was unaware of the food stamps,” says Quinn Harrer.
When he received a letter from social services demanding a refund, he thought it was fraud.
“I was a little surprised when it happened,” Harrer said.
In documents obtained by CBS4, Human Services defends its actions by pointing to a state law that says, “All adult members of the household who were 18 years of age or older at the time the oversubmission occurred, will be jointly and severally responsible.”
“Now, all of a sudden, I’m in debt. I don’t know what to do, $2,000 is a lot, a lot of money. If I don’t pay it back, they’ll take it out of my taxes,” Harrer says. “I don’t make a lot of money.”
He called it “ridiculous”. Lawyer Suzanne Taheri agrees. She filed a pro bono appeal with the state Department of Human Services.
“I was expecting to say, ‘Hey, we’ll sort this out later,’ that’s not what happened,” Harrer said.
Instead, the state sided with the county, saying it “cannot consider the underlying overpayment claim on its merits,” only if it is “legally enforceable.”
In other words, “the law is the law”.
“They’re pretty ruthless,” Harrer said.
Denver Social Services and the state Department of Human Services say they cannot comment on individual cases. The county says it’s only following the law and telling customers about refund considerations.
But Harrer’s attorney says what they’re not getting is due process. Neither the county nor the state, Taheri said, held a hearing where he could challenge the charge.
Harrer’s mother is a single mother of three and believes the county made a mistake in calculating her unemployment. She asked Denver Human Services not to blame her son but, she said, he refused to back down and sent the matter to the US Treasury Department for collection.