If you are on unemployment you need money coming in-- and the last thing you want to see is a balance for thousands of dollars.
“I was literally almost in tears like I was floored, like what is this from?" said Amanda Edwards. "You log in to correspondence and all it says is you’ve been overpaid, no reason why.”
Edwards, and a lot of other people we've talked to who are depending on unemployment are now dealing with huge overpayment fees.
People are logging into the portal and seeing a big overpayment balance staring back at them.
So first we have to understand how the Maryland Department of Labor explains overpayments.
A specialist looks over a claimant's paperwork and determines they are ineligible for money they've been getting.
There’s two types --fraud and non-fraud--Meaning the department thinks you did it on purpose or that it was an accidental error.
Everybody I talked to falls into the non-fraud category.
If you've got a problem with having an overpayment balance for thousands of dollars you can file a dispute.
Okay so that's the explanation-- I've spent the last couple of days hearing from people who tell me it's not that simple and that they are desperately searching for answers.
Edwards lost her job in April and says she didn’t have any issues collecting the max amount of unemployment until the beacon update at the end of the year.
Mid-January she logged onto to find A $9,600 overpayment balance.
She panicked, collected herself and proceeded to call over 100 times a day for two weeks.
Only to get the same message every time.
“We’re too busy to take your call please call back again later and hangs up on you,” she said.
She had slightly more luck with the live chat option, but the person on the other end told her they can’t help and that she needs to email the overpayment department.
A few weeks went by without a response, so she reached out to us.
“I got a phone call probably about a week ago, and I believe it’s because somebody that Mallory knows. Again, I’m very thankful for Mallory she’s been a huge help.”
She got another call and was told her overpayment was taken care of and her unemployment checks would go back to the max amount.
But not so fast.
“Now it shows an overpayment of $10,562,” Edwards said.
After Mallory Sofastaii sent several emails to the Department of Labor about Edwards' overpayment, a spokesperson for the Maryland Department of Labor responded.
The spokesperson said the overpayment was generated because the pay-stubs she provided for proof of income were for 2020 not 2019.
Saying “The overpayment notice Amanda received outlined why she was found monetarily ineligible and provides instructions for how to dispute her over payment.” And going on to say she can "provide her 2019 proof of income and have eligibility updated which may result in her no longer having an overpayment."
WMAR-2 News learned on February 9th that Edwards' 2019 pay stubs had been reviewed and she no longer has an overpayment. The overpayment balance is now $0.
Linda Webb met Edwards through an online Facebook chat with over a dozen people dealing with the same issue.
“The waiver is in the black hole of unemployment," said Webb.
In the meantime, if you don't get the balance taken care of after 30 days, money starts coming out of your checks.
“The last two weeks they’ve taken half of that leaving me with $88," said Webb. "My over payment was $6,076.”
Danielle Barkley was receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or PUA from March to August.
She reopened her case in January and noticed she had over $3,000 in overpayments and now it’s up to $12,000.
She said she filed all the paperwork correctly and was furloughed and still employed at the YMCA, but her hours were severely cut back or nonexistent at times.
“I’ve been calling, calling, and calling and of course no one's calling back nobody’s answering no one's emailing me back no nothing," said Barkley. "I’m like you know eventually this is going to affect me if this overpayment doesn’t get paid. I don’t want to file my taxes and have that took because of something that has absolutely nothing to do with me.”
So much of the frustration is that people can't get a hold of anyone to dispute or have this explained to them.
On Thursday, I'm going to investigate the communication issues people are facing with unemployment and what is being done to fix them.