TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday ordered the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) not to send Floridians to debt collectors if they were given "overpayment" notices as part of the ongoing troubles with the state's unemployment payment system.
As DeSantis explained in a letter to Department of Economic Opportunity Secretary Dane Eagle, the state worked to reduce red tape and pay out benefits when jobless numbers soared during the height of the pandemic.
"As a result of providing this swift response, many claimants, believing they were fully and accurately applying for Reemployment Assistance within the bounds of the law, received overpayments from the state," DeSantis wrote.
Thus, the governor is asking Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis to "immediately" defer all collection agency referrals on any non-fraudulent debts owed on state reemployment assistance benefits from March 1, 2020, through Sept. 4, 2021.
This will buy the state time to sort out the issues with overpayments.
"This request does not apply to fraudulent overpayments and DEO will continue to investigate fraudulent overpayments to ensure individuals and bad actors are held accountable for their fraudulent actions in accordance with the law," a DEO statement explained.
In an effort to ease public frustration and confusion caused by overpayments, the DEO wrote it had taken the following actions:
- Requested to indefinitely defer all referrals to a collection agency for non-fraudulent debts owed to the state for weeks of unemployment beginning March 1, 2020 through September 4, 2021. DEO first requested the suspension of debt referrals on January 7, 2021, and was recently extended until January 2023.
- Announced the opportunity for claimants to apply for federal overpayment waivers on April 21, 2021. Claimants should still complete overpayment waivers as they become available to relieve federal overpayments created on their account.
- Announced numerous resources to assist claimants navigate this process, including their appeal rights. Visit FloridaJobs.org/Overpayments for additional resources.
If you were given federal reemployment assistance benefits, you may be eligible for an overpayment waiver.
The state is urging people with reemployment accounts to keep checking for updates on their claims. In the meantime, the DEO published the following resources for anyone who needs help:
- FloridaJobs.org/Overpayments - with easy-to-understand information and resources on overpayments
- Reemployment Assistance Overpayments Guide for applying for an overpayment waiver
- Informational Flyers with helpful information on overpayments and overpayment waivers
- FloridaJobs.org/RAHelpCenter - Reemployment Assistance Help Center self-service paths for notice of disqualification, overpayment, and appeals assistance