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I-Team 8 drops off 900+ unemployment complaints at Workforce Development

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — I-Team 8 dropped off over 900 complaints on unemployment benefits to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development on Monday after Commissioner Fred Payne asked for any help the I-Team could give.

“We’re always refining our processes. And we do take suggestions from the public on all of that,” Payne said at a press conference last week, the first time the DWD had addressed the unemployment issues publicly in weeks.

The DWD declined an interview with I-Team 8 on Monday.

“I really do not feel like they addressed what’s wrong,” says Danita Owens, whose brother is being asked to repay $8,025 in pandemic unemployment benefits, even though he was deemed eligible.

“Somebody needs to step up to help all of these claimants, not each individual claim, because the issue is not different,” Owens said.

Owens says since the press conference, nothing has changed and she says many questions have gone unanswered.

“Why can’t you grant the waiver? And why was the waiver even asked for? I just feel like that it leaves an open end to an answer that we really didn’t get answered,” Owens said.

State Rep. Ryan Hatfield, a Democrat who represents Evansville, is calling for Indiana to create a waiver system specifically for pandemic unemployment overpayments.

The DWD says they do have a waiver system in place. While it does not specifically detail pandemic unemployment, someone can still file for it. Hatfield says a more specific system is needed.

“The only way to screw this up more, quite frankly, is to get three months down the line and then say, ‘OK, we’re finally going to go ahead and forgive this,” says Hatfield. “The government is at fault here.”

Payne made clear on Friday that those who were eligible should not be in a position to repay.

“We only want to go after overpayments that people did not legitimately receive. So we’re not in a business of trying to be overly burdensome to individuals,” Payne said.

Both Hatfield and Owens said more explanation on the unemployment process is needed so that errors are not made.

“It is their job to provide guidance. They provide guidance every day on all sorts of issues. Let’s provide the guidance [and] make it clear,” says Hatfield.

Without that guidance, Owens says she fears things will get worse: “I really do think it leaves a door open for additional problems to occur.”

I-Team 8 will follow up with those who submitted complaints to see if the DWD has made any progress in waiving repayments for those eligible for pandemic unemployment benefits.