PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — A Pasco woman said she got an overpayment letter from the Department of Economic Opportunity stating she owed the agency $1,650 for not claiming two weeks while collecting unemployment benefits last year.
"This was just gut wrenching to get this in the mail. When I've been trying really hard to save money and I've been going back to work," said Jessie Morris, 34. "I just can't imagine how it feels for everybody else who got the same letter."
What You Need To Know
- Jesse Morris collected unemployment benefits for 7 weeks in 2020
- Morris said didn't claim weeks because Governor had temporarily suspended requirement
- Bi-weekly reporting suspended from Mar. 15 to May 9, 2020
- Claimants who get overpayment letter for that timeframe must answer certification for those weeks
Morris said she collected unemployment benefits for 7 weeks beginning in March of last year because the restaurant she worked at had shutdown due to the pandemic.
The New Port Richey woman said the reason she didn't claim her last two weeks in CONNECT was because Governor Ron DeSantis had temporarily waived the requirement from Mar. 15 to May 9.
"Ron DeSantis said not to worry about claiming the last few weeks because it was so hard to get into the website, hard to get anybody on the phone," she said. "I didn't know a year later that because I didn't claim those last couple of weeks that they'd be asking for that money back."
Governor DeSantis suspended bi-weekly reporting because the CONNECT website, which had a history of problems, crashed under the massive amount of claims filed. Emilie Oglesby, the DEO director of communications, said the decision was made to get claimants paid as fast as possible.
Oglesby said claimants who received an overpayment letter for that timeframe may now need to answer certification for those weeks.
"These certification questions are the same questions claimants answer when they request benefit payments in CONNECT for each week they remain unemployed. Claimants should log-in to the CONNECT system to answer the certification questions for the weeks that were automatically requested for them," she stated. "Claimants may access these certification questions through the Request Benefit Payment link in your CONNECT account."
Morris said she received the letter last month and has filed an appeal in CONNECT that's pending, and like many claimants, she can't reach anyone at the DEO to discuss the matter.
"I'm worried that it's going to go to collections before I get a chance to speak with somebody," she said. "Then it's going to hurt my credit score, which I worked really hard to get up."
Oglesby said someone from the DEO team will reach out to Morris.