Some unemployed Floridians say the state is telling them they owe money

Central Floridians are encountering yet another problem with the state’s unemployment system: They are being told they owe money.

About a month ago, Amber Vann’s unemployment claim status was suspended, barring her from collecting additional weeks of unemployment.

In fact, the Department of Economic Opportunity updated her account to show that she owes the agency $3,750 from several weeks of unemployment payment she had already received.

The mother is still unemployed because of COVID-19 and is trying to support her 3-year-old daughter.

"It was saying that I was disqualified for all the weeks I was approved for all the way back in April,” she said. "For me, it's kind of just like, 'how am I going to support my daughter?' I'm a single mom. How am I going to support myself and meet the demands that I have every day?"

Vann is not the only one who has encountered the issue.

Vanessa Brito, a community activist in Miami who helps people navigate the unemployment system, has seen it too.

"I have seen so many people with a significant overpayment. We're not talking a week or two of pay. We're talking an entire program's worth of pay,” she said.

Upon researching the situation and communicating with DEO, Brito concluded for many people, this is likely a technical error that happens when DEO employees manually update claimant’s accounts.

"Whether they're updating any element of the claim, whether it's employer information or wage information, they somehow change the monetary sequence. Where as a person might have gone from regular UC to PEUC, they change all the weeks to regular UC,” she said. “So, you have 12 weeks [of UC], plus all your 13 weeks of PEUC, they changed over to regular. So, you have 25 weeks of regular. So, of course, you're going to have an overpayment because the state can only pay 12 weeks."

This action will freeze a claimant’s account, barring them from collecting future unemployment.

Brito says if you think this is what is happening to your account, do not pay the DEO back yet. Brito is willing to help people reach the DEO about their claims.

The DEO sent FOX 35 the following statement on the matter:

"If a claimant believes that an Overpayment Determination is incorrect, they may appeal the Overpayment. Claimants may file an appeal if they wish to dispute the overpayment determination. These rights are contained within the overpayment determination."

Individuals can find information on overpayments here.