As thousands wait to get unemployment payments, some Disney workers say they were overpaid

As many still wait to receive benefits from Florida?s unemployment system, some central Floridians say they have been paid too much.

ORLANDO, Fla. — As many still wait to receive benefits from Florida’s unemployment system, some central Floridians say they have been paid too much.

Channel 9 investigative reporter Karla Ray learned this is impacting auto-enrolled Walt Disney World Disney workers who don’t qualify for benefits because they’re either taking paid time off or employed elsewhere. Ray found out firsthand how difficult it can be to get a straight answer about what to do with the money.

When the state’s largest employer shut down, tens of thousands of Disney cast members were auto-enrolled in the Department of Economic Opportunity’s unemployment system. That, however, did not consider those who don’t actually qualify for benefits.

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“Many took paid time off following the official start of their furlough so they wouldn’t have to apply for any weekly benefits, and yet the state of Florida is still providing them benefits,” state Rep. Anna Eskamani said.

Those employees have reached out to Eyewitness News and to state lawmakers like Eskamani, trying to sort out what to do with the money that has been direct deposited into their bank accounts and even sent by mail, worried they could be accused of fraud.

“It’s really unfortunate because no matter what someone’s situation is with DEO, it’s very hard to get in touch with DEO,” Eskamani said.

Ray wanted to see whether she could get a straight answer on the phone. After almost 20 minutes on hold with the fraud and overpayment hotline, she was able to talk to a real person.

The representative did not know exactly what to do with the money, but she did say not to spend it.

“Apparently, from what I’ve been hearing, they will contact you about an overpayment,” the representative said.

DEO media relations later sent Channel 9 the following information:

You can pay back overpayments by mailing a check to the address below, payable to UC Trust Fund.

The Department of Economic Opportunity

Benefit Payment Control

P.O. Drawer 5050

Tallahassee, FL 32314-5050

To return federal payments, you can pay via mail at the address above or online by clicking here.

It’s unclear how the state will sort out how many auto-enrolled employees were overpaid unless those people self-report.

Channel 9 contacted Walt Disney World to see if the company has been asked to send a list of employees who took paid time off instead of seeking unemployment benefits but are still waiting for information.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday defended the state?s broken unemployment system, saying rejections are user error.