VEC explains why some people are getting letters to pay back $8K in unemployment benefits

Posted at 10:04 PM, Oct 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-13 23:48:53-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Cheryl Washington is in disbelief.

"Somebody done bumped their head and lost their mind,” she says as she reads over a letter she received in the mail.

The sender - the Virginia Employment Commission.

"I get a letter saying I owe them $8,710 in overpayment,” Washington adds.

An overpayment in unemployment benefits she’s been getting since the coronavirus pandemic hit back in March.

Washington saw News 3’s original story on two Virginia Beach women in similar situations, so she reached out to help get her some answers.

“It's ridiculous,” she adds.

Washington isn’t the only one with a hefty bill. A woman in Hopewell, who doesn’t want to be identified, sent News 3 a copy of her letter that states she owes $8,200 in unemployment benefits.

Leaders at the state’s employment commission says there are many reasons why someone would get this letter.

“One could be that we have found some claimants who have filed in two states,” said Joyce Fogg, the Communications Manager with the Virginia Employment Commission.

Below are additional reasons from Fogg on why people may owe the VEC:

  • Applicants aren’t thoroughly completing their work history
  • Unreported income
  • Employer notifies VEC that applicant voluntary quit their job
  • Applicant was fired or terminated for cause (there was a reason they were let go)
  • Applicant was offered job and refused the position
  • Applicant received funds and benefits from other agencies
  • Employment fraud

Fogg says they department is now catching up on a lot of errors in applications.

“We are behind. We are over 125,000 issues, not people. Like, one person may have more than one issue,” she adds.

The question people continue to ask is: Why were they told they were eligible for benefits?

"Why should I have to be held accountable for the mistake that they made?” asks Washington.

Leaders tell us that back in March, their main priority was making sure everyone received money. Fogg’s best piece of advice for people is to appeal.

“If you are not happy with that decision, you can appeal it on to the commission appeals and it will be heard again,” she adds.

Washington says she is waiting on hearing date. At the moment, she isn’t working and relies on disability that takes care of her mortgage.

So, even if she’s given an payment plan option, she doesn’t know how she is going to come up with $8,000.

"They put the cart before the horse, and they should have known the people on the horse have to deal with all of this,” said Washington.

There is good news for some people. Leaders with the employment commission say they do plan on paying out additional money to people who applied for the PUA, the pandemic unemployment assistance.

These are individuals who only received the minimum of $158 a week because they file 1099 or are self-employed.

“Now we have asked the PUA recipients to upload their 1099 information about the earnings and we are determining whether we owe them more than the $158.... That is what we are trying to do now - is adjust - and a lot of people will start seeing a lump sum in their account, and that’s because we owe them more money and we are paying them now," said Fogg.

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