A Jacksonville woman got state unemployment money when she was out of a job during the pandemic. Now, three years later, the state is asking for money back because of its own mistake.
Sandy originally needed unemployment assistance because she lost her job at the University of North Florida during the pandemic, but she got her job back in August of 2021. While unemployment is in her past, she’s still dealing with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity in the present.
“It has never stopped. It just keeps going and going and going,” she said. Most recently she got a letter in October about a balance of more than $2,700 owed to the state. “It just knocked the wind right out of my sails. I just was so depressed when I saw it.”
According to the letter, Sandy owes the money because of overpayment. The DEO paid benefits she wasn’t eligible for. It’s not the first time she’s received balances, but normally it’s around $100 and comes with a waiver. Sandy said this time it didn’t, and she’s spent hours over multiple days trying to sort it out.
“This is a nightmare. An unemployment nightmare.”
Even before the pandemic, the DEO was plagued with issues handling unemployment. Unanswered calls, missed payments, and a data breach. It’s now going through a multi-million-dollar overhaul. DEO is now Florida Commerce. Sandy said while it’s a new name, it’s the same frustration.
“I am just so done with this. I’m completely stressed out over it. I don’t know how to fix it,” Sandy said.
Action News Jax reached out to the DEO about Sandy’s case and we’re still waiting to hear back. But Florida Commerce did announce it will “indefinitely defer all referrals to collection agencies for all non-fraudulent debts owed by claimants for state Reemployment Assistance benefits owed for weeks beginning March 1, 2020, through September 4, 2021.” However, federal law still requires the state to send notices of overpayment.
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The department said those who do not receive an overpayment waiver can still appeal the repayment. Information can be found by clicking here.