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'I don't know how I'm going to pay it back': Virginia Beach women receive $6K bill asking to repay unemployment benefits

Unemployment haunts Social Security recipients
Posted at 10:37 PM, Oct 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-07 23:18:08-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - These next door neighbors are comparing letters they received in the mail.

“'You are hereby notified that based on facts obtained in connection of your claim that you essentially owe $4,632.00,'" read Carly Vega.

“I received a letter stating that I owed $1,276,” said Maegan Foci.

The sender behind the letters? The Virginia Employment Commission.

Both women applied for unemployment benefits when the pandemic hit.

Vega is a self-employed make-up artist.

“All of our spring weddings essentially disappeared overnight,” she adds.

Foci applied for partial unemployment when her hours at work were cut. She works at an employment agency.

Vega’s letter states that she was “overpaid in the amount” of almost $5,000.

Money she says she already spent to survive.

“I paid my bills, I fed my family, we paid our car note,” said Vega.

Now, the state wants that money back even though the letter states it was an "agency error."

A spokesperson with the VEC tells News 3 that these letters are not new.

People can receive them for many reasons including fraud and receiving additional benefits elsewhere.

The question these neighbors have is: Why did the commission approve their applications if they did not qualify?

Leaders tell us they “tried to distribute payments as fast as possible.”

Vega says, “This could be a simple error or clerical error on their end.”

She says her only option now is to appeal. Foci did, and she was denied.

“I don't understand why they would pay me if I wasn’t eligible,” she ask.

She wants others who may receive a similar letter - like her neighbor - to reach out to the VEC.

“Don't just take it at face value and pay it back,” says Foci.

According to the letter, if the money isn’t paid back, you cannot apply for future benefits.

Vega says with talks of a “second wave,” she’s not sure what she’s going to do.

Related: Community helps struggling Norfolk man, but his future remains uncertain

“If this happens again and I need for any employment assistance, then how am I going to take care of my family?” said Vega.

Leaders with the VEC say they "encourage people to be vigilant about reporting information accurately.”

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