ORLANDO, Fla. — It’s no secret that Florida’s unemployment system was a mess. Now, people tell Channel 9 that it was hard to get their money from the state, and years later, some are asking to pay some back.
During the pandemic, Soraya Robertson and her husband, like so many other workers, found herself out of work and struggling to make ends meet.
She held out as long as they could before applying for unemployment, telling us, “It was about September of 2021 when we applied because there was no time frame of back to work for him. I wasn’t working because I was a stay-at-home, and I said I need the money to help us to pay the bills and survive and go through this.”
The pandemic ended, and she and her husband went back to work, unemployment now a thing of the past.
That was until July, when she got this letter saying she owed the state money because she was overpaid $2,200.
Robertson telling us, “I couldn’t believe it, what was happening, why was it happening to me? I really needed the money at that time, and now they are asking me for the money back. It wasn’t a loan; I got the money because I needed it, like everybody else at that time.”
She filled out this paperwork asking for a waiver, but it was denied.
Then she heard nothing. Telling us, “I start freaking out because I never owe anything. I always pay my bills before the due date, so I didn’t know what to do.”
Even before the pandemic, Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity was plagued with issues handling unemployment. People were locked out, calls unanswered, payments missed, and then DEO had a data breach. And then, a state investigation showed the online system was never tested and failed when thousands of people tried to access benefits.
The system has been going through a multi-million-dollar overhaul, and DEO even has a new name, now called Florida Commerce. But it’s unclear where the upgrades stand or if all the glitches have been worked out.
We have not heard back from the State of Florida, but just three hours after we sent an email about Soraya, but she did. The state telling her she no longer has to pay the money back.
Meanwhile, Soraya still doesn’t have an explanation as to why she got this bill or why it was waived. Telling us, “I believe this is a mistake, a big mistake and they just want you to pay back somehow, but how can you pay back something you don’t owe? I do not understand.”
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