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Government contractor among Hoosiers told to repay pandemic unemployment benefits

FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) — Several more people are coming forward with stories of the state of Indiana demanding they repay $10,000 or more of pandemic unemployment benefits.

Lisa Sales got surprised when she logged into the state’s unemployment claims portal a few weeks ago. According to the state, she owes $9,878, basically all her unemployment claims since the start of 2021.

“My stomach did drop. It scared me because I thought this couldn’t be right,” Sales said.

She was an independent contractor working as a verbatim hearing reporter with the federal Social Security Administration until all hearings stopped back in March 2020.

Earlier this year when the portal requested she provide proof of employment, she said she did so on Feb. 15, months before the deadline. Then she did it a second time at the unemployment office a few months later in May when the request still hadn’t cleared from the system.

But, she said, the bill came due on June 7.

“I was shocked. I thought this can’t be right,” Sales said. “It says why. It said that I did not turn in proof of employment. I knew that I had twice.”

She also sent in her appeal twice, too.

For Sales, after two tries and two appeals, it’s frustrating.

“Not very comfortable,” she said. “Not like I can trust what they’re doing, that they are going to take care of it.”

She’s been told that it’s a decision that can’t be appealed to the DWD. It now has to go before a judge even though on the phone she’s been told her documents were properly received.

“I know that I’m right. I know that it’s there,” Sales said. “I think it’s ridiculous that I have to go before a judge when everything is there and they know everything is there.”

Now, it’s a waiting game, anywhere from 8 to 14 weeks for that hearing. It’s an uncertainty that isn’t easy.

“Because I have plans. I want to do things,” Sales said. “I want to make plans and I need to know if I need to pay back $10,000 that I shouldn’t have to pay back. It’s frustrating.”

At least three other people have reached out since our story first aired Tuesday night with similar stories.

Sales’ story is similar to the one News showed on Tuesday’s News 8 at 10 and 11. That case involved nail salon owner Lynn Moreau.

On Wednesday, News 8’s Richard Essex went to Department of Workforce Development offices in downtown Indianapolis demanding answers. All he could get was the runaround and locked doors.

News 8 again reached out Thursday to the Department of Workforce Development and received no response at all.