Florida seeks reimbursement for accidental unemployment overpayments

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is going after what it says are overpayments.

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In September, 9 Investigates discovered Florida’s chaotic unemployment system accidentally sent out an estimated $21 million dollars in overpayments and had sent waves of letters to Floridians telling them they owe the state money for those overpayments.

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It’s been known as far back as 2013 that Florida’s unemployment system was broken.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, millions of Floridians discovered just how bad the system was.

18 months after Osceola COunty resident Marvin Nichols was laid off, he says he’s still missing money.

“I get advised that we are checking on it...We’re trying to find where the money went,” Nichols said.

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Now, there’s another problem for workers. The FL DEO has started sending emails to thousands of people it says accidentally got more money than they deserved. Charles Williford is one of those people.

“I found a letter saying I owe $720,” Williford said.

It’s just a small part of the $21.5 million that the U.S. Department Labor estimates Florida accidentally paid out to people during the pandemic when the CONNECT site was, at best, unreliable, and at worst, off-line.

An audit of the system found that the automated system for payments was riddled with errors that DEO knew about as far back as May of 2015, but they were never fixed.

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By the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was too late, leaving people like Charles Williford looking for $720.

Residents who get an overpayment notice can appeal the state’s finding. Meanwhile, DEO says it won’t be sending any overpayments to collections until the end of 2022.

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