Coronavirus

Pandemic unemployment benefits are gone … now what?

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Out of the nearly 1,000 complaints I-Team 8 dropped off at the Department of Workforce Development in July, some that wrote in, say their issues have been resolved. However, that’s not everyone’s situation. Others are still being asked to pay back tens of thousands of dollars despite expanded unemployment benefits ending.

“I have lost everything. Like everything. And [the DWD representative] was like, ‘those are personal problems,'” says Erica Pickett, a single mom of four with a fifth child on the way.

Pickett says she’s currently asked to repay over $14,000 in overpayments, even after going months without ever receiving an unemployment check after losing her job due to the pandemic last year. Now, in addition to the bill, she says she hasn’t been able to look for work because her 14-year-old daughter caught COVID.

“[The DWD representative] said because, ‘If Walmart called you today and offered you a job, you would not be available or able,’ [and] I said, ‘Absolutely not. I wouldn’t,'” explains Pickett. “We’re quarantined. My daughter is sick. We were just in the hospital for seven hours yesterday.”

According to the DWD’s website in the FAQ section, it says, “Individuals must provide self-certification that the individual is otherwise able and available to work except that the individual is unable to work because of the following circumstances, which all relate to COVID-19.”

It goes on to list one of those circumstances is if “the individual is providing care for a family member or a member of the individual’s household who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or a child or other person in the household.”

Still, Pickett says she was told just Tuesday morning that because they are quarantining, she is no longer eligible to receive her benefits for the last two weeks. It’s money, she says, that would’ve been helpful, considering she can no longer afford childcare.

 “I’ve lost my car. Like, I mean everything. I completely maxed myself out.” 

Pickett says she’s staying with other family members now, in an effort to stay afloat. But that doesn’t change the hefty bill she owes.

“It’s almost like they’re not even human.”

With Pickett’s permission, I-Team 8 sent over her information directly to the DWD to see if the representative she talked to made a mistake. A spokesperson from the DWD says they are seeing what they can find out about her situation.

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