UIA website

Residents depended on their unemployment benefits to make ends meet and now some are being told to pay them back.

The state Unemployment Insurance Agency responds to TV5 explaining why this is happening and what people can do.

Mary Payne of Flushing said she was let go from her job as a pharmacy tech when COVID-19 hit last year. She is being told she owes the UIA more than 14,000 dollars.

"I’m obviously not the only person dealing with this problem,” Payne said.

She said the UIA has made a mistake, but every time she calls it gets nowhere.

"I just felt like I got the runaround,” Payne said.

It's a similar story for Kaitlin Wisenbaugh from Davison who was let go from her job last year in dental billing.

“I logged in and it said that I owed restitution,” Wisenbaugh said.

She said the UIA tells her she owes them hundreds of dollars, yet when she calls them, she needs to keep certifying.

'it’s just frustrating knowing that I’ve done nothing wrong. I have not misrepresented myself in anyway," Wisenbaugh said.

TV5 reached out to the UIA. Although they did not do an on-camera interview with us, they did respond to our questions.

Specifically, there is a problem or mistake in sending letters out asking people to repay their benefits.

"Letters noting that benefits must be paid back are likely sent in the case of an overpayment, not likely a mistake," Lynda Robinson with the UIA said. "A multitude of reasons why some or all payments may be determined ineligible after initial approval.”

Why are some people being asked to pay back money? Robinson said it could be failure to report all earnings, refusal to work, misrepresenting why you're unemployed or you were found to be ineligible later.

"What ended up happening is they sent me this document saying that it was fraudulent,” Payne said. “My claim was fraudulent and that I misrepresented myself, which I did not."

What is confusing to Payne, is that she's been working since August, and recently received a notice telling her she's approved for more benefits.

Payne has hired an attorney to prove her case.

For Payne and others who disagree with having to repay benefits, the UIA says you should file a protest online thru your MIWAN account or in writing on this form UIA 1733.

"I just had to go online and file a protest. But there was nothing there for me to protest," Wisenbaugh said.

In TV5s reports Monday and Tuesday night, it was stated TV5 had not heard back from the UIA. Our reporter recently found the UIA’s earlier written response to our questions in her spam folder.

TV5 let the agency know and repeated the request for an in-person interview.

The agency said that with more than 200,000 reports of unemployment fraud and identity theft reported since last March, there have been delays in reviewing claims.

Copyright 2021 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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