I-Team 8

Indiana man, eligible for benefits again, still owes more than $3k in overpayments

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — When Veronica Sanchez first helped her husband Jose file for unemployment benefits after he lost his job during the pandemic, she says they didn’t expect to get a bill in the mail for $3,273 after being declared ineligible for not uploading documents in time by the Department of Workforce Development.

Ironically, she says her husband was told now that benefits have restarted, he is once again eligible.

“You have an overpayment file on him and you still want to give him unemployment?” said Sanchez.

That is the confusing question Sanchez says she is trying to understand: “[Jose was] like I’m already in debt with them over $3,000, [He said,] ‘Forget it.’”

Sanchez tells I-Team 8 her husband, who is a native of Mexico and now a U.S. green card holder, was told he was eligible for benefits in 2020. She says since he is not fluent in English, she helped him file the correct documents.

“I uploaded that file three times. And I assume they got it, because the vouchers kept coming in,” Sanchez said.

Months later, however, she says he received a letter of overpayment, explaining he needed to repay the money. Sanchez said they immediately appealed the decision and requested a translator to be at the court hearing. She says they waited all morning long for the appeal call, but it never came. After calling the department again, she was told the hearing was canceled. A few days later, she found out the appeal was denied.

“How did they have a translator to get your money back, but you didn’t have a translator for his appeal hearing?” asked Sanchez.

Sanchez says she wishes her husband got a fair chance to explain that they did indeed upload all the documents on time. She describes her husband as an “honest, straightforward man [who] doesn’t want any trouble,” but the stress of him still looking for work and having to pay the extra bill from the DWD has created a burden of stress for their family.

“He was working over [in Mexico] making $30 a week and he came here. That’s the American dream, right? And it’s not looking good; we’re not giving a great example right now,” Sanchez said. 

Sanchez said even though the department has cleared Jose to receive benefits for a second time, they are going to decline, out of fear of being in the same overpayment situation. She says they felt like they had no choice but to set up a financial plan. They are paying $100 every month to the DWD.

 “I feel it was just a loan. You know what I mean? They gave him a loan and now they want their money back,” Sanchez said.

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