Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Help Me Howard: Unemployment benefits
No one ever says, "I can't wait to get unemployment benefits." It's good to know if you lose your job, it's there. But what if the state pays you too much? Can they come back and say, you owe us thousands? It's why one man called Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- It's not a four letter word, but its a bad one- unemployment.
Carlos Coloma, Too Many Benefits?: "I worked 38 years, I've never applied for unemployment."
If there is any good news from being out of work, it's that you can collect unemployment benefits from the state of Florida. Not that the amount is going to match your old salary.
Carlos Coloma: "I was getting $250 a week and I would get paid every two weeks."
Some people are proud to collect unemployment benefits. Carlos was embarrassed.
Carlos Coloma: "I wasn't use to that, it's like a handout to me and I'm use to working all my life so it wasn't easy."
He was embarrassed then by having to accept the money from Florida's Agency for Workforce Innovation. Now he is upset at the State agency.
Carlos Coloma: "I seek for help and ended up worse then when I started."
According to the paperwork, after being on unemployment for 7 months Carlos found a job as a security guard. But since he can't stand all day, he had to quit after only six days.
Carlos Coloma: "So I said well I will finish the day but I'm not going to comeback this will be my last day and I left."
Carlos was unemployed for four more months, getting unemployment. Then he found another job, the unemployment benefits stopped. But then the letters started coming in from the State.
Carlos Coloma: "And all they told me is that you're overpaid and you need to pay this money back or were going to put you in a collection agency."
One letter from Florida's Agency for Workforce Innovation said he was overpaid $200. This one said $2,200. On the same day in September, the State sent two letters- one saying he owed $450 the other that he owed $7,417.
Carlos Coloma: "And all of them had different prices, different amounts. So I'm all confused, don't know what I owe or why I owe this."
Carlos called the State trying to fight their claim that he owed $7,400. They told him, too bad, your appeal is too late.
Carlos Coloma: "I didn't file it in the sufficient time that they told me to do it, so like I said, I never collected unemployment before so I don't know how the system works."
Well Howard, Carlos was unemployed for 11 months and during that time did work six days, so does he owe the State of Florida nearly $7,000 in unemployment benefits?
Howard Finkelstein: "At the present time he owes the State money because he took a job, quit and continued to get unemployment. And once the State asked for the money back, he failed to file his appeal on time, so legally he has to repay the money he received after he took that six day job."
When we contacted the Agency for Workforce Innovation they explained their procedures.
According to our math, if the State is trying to take back every dollar paid to Carlos after he quit the six day job, he owes $4,000 to the State, not $7,400 as the State says. When we asked the Agency for Workforce Innovation how they got to $7,400, we were told due to confidentially reasons, the State can't reveal that.
So Howard, if Carlos is being required to repay more than he owes, what can do since he lost his appeal?
Howard Finkelstein: "The only option- appeal the denial of his appeal. And what this case points out, when the government sends you paperwork, read it carefully and do not miss deadlines. But it can be expensive, just asked Carlos."
Carlos says he has no choice, he will appeal. And after it's over, will be the last time he deals with the State.
Carlos Coloma: "If I could go back I wouldn't collect unemployment again."
Patrick Fraser: "A couple of things about unemployment- even if the State makes a mistake and pays you too much, you have to repay it. Although, if Carlos loses his final appeal, they will set up a payment plan since he doesn't have thousands of dollars laying around. One final thing- if you quit your job, usually you cannot get unemployment. Normally you have to be fired or laid off to collect.
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