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I-Team 8 finds people forced to repay more unemployment benefits than they received

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — I-Team 8 has collected over 800 complaints of unemployment benefit issues in less than a week.

Now, some are saying they are being asked to repay more than what they actually received in pandemic unemployment benefits.

“It was the scariest letter I had ever received saying I owed this much money,” said Ciana Sorrentino, a IUPUI graduate student studying public policy. “It seemed like some of the case studies that we read about in class about when public agencies essentially, like, mess up.” 

Workforce Development plans to have a briefing at 11 a.m. Friday in a conference room at Indiana Government Center South. People scheduled to speak at the briefing for the news media are Fred Payne, the head of the department; Josh Richardson, the department’s chief of staff; and Regina Ashley, chief unemployment insurance and workforce solutions officer. The briefing will be live on WISH-TV, at and on the WISH-TV app and Facebook page.

Sorrentino says the pandemic hit when she was set to start school. It was then that she lost her job and spent five weeks on unemployment.

“I received $573 (in Pandemic Unemployment Assistance) and I had to pay $667 back, and I was just caught off guard,” she said.

Sorrentino says, at the time, she was told she was not allowed to appeal the decision, and so, out of fear, she paid the money.

“I know compared to some of the other stories I’ve been reading, it’s like pennies because I know some people have to pay like thousands of dollars.” 

Sorrentino says it’s time for the Indiana Department of Workforce Development to waive pandemic unemployment payments or at least be more open about what’s happening. “I think transparency is necessary especially when it comes to any sort of financial matter.” 

Others however, find themselves in steeper situations.

“William” shared his story. News 8 agreed to only use his first name. “I received around $10,000, and I have to pay back $13,300. My heart dropped into my stomach.”

“William” told I-Team 8 that the reason he has to pay more is due to taxes. He says he already appealed the decision and was denied. He says the process took nearly six months.

“I drove for Lyft,” he said. When the pandemic started, “I literally sat, for two weeks, sat in my car waiting for rides. I got maybe three rides in two weeks.”

Another person who shared a story was granted anonymity from News 8. The person was told to repay over $10,000 but only received a little over $9,000. That person calls it “a bogus overpayment judgement” by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.