Gov. DeSantis asks Florida DEO to stop collecting reemployment assistance overpayments

Better Call Behnken

In this Aug. 10, 2021, photo, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions related to school openings and the wearing of masks in Surfside, Fla. Top Republicans are battling school districts in their own states’ urban, heavily Democratic areas over whether students should be required to mask up as they head back to school. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has directed the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) to request the agency be allowed to indefinitely suspend the collection of reemployment assistance overpayments, according to a news release.

This comes just days after Better Call Behnken reported on residents who feared that not reimbursing the state for overpayments of unemployment benefits could hurt their credit score.

The press release from the Governor’s office noted the suspension did not apply to overpayments resulting from fraud, which the DEO would continue to investigate.

Earlier this week, Better Call Behnken spoke with Robert Cornwell, who was overpaid in unemployment money after losing his job during the pandemic.

Cornwell was notified in June about his overpayment and returned the $517. But months later, he received another notice saying he still owed $275. Fearing it could go to collections and negatively impact his credit rating, Cornwell paid the state that additional $275.

“That’s how much people should think their credit is worth. $275. Yeah, I’ll pay it again if you don’t wreck my credit,” Cornwell told Better Call Behnken in an interview.

The DEO is specifically asking to defer all referrals for overpayments to collection agencies for any unemployment benefits paid out between Mar. 1, 2020 – Sept. 4, 2021.

The DEO is strongly encouraging any unemployment recipients to monitor their accounts frequently and respond to any actions on their unemployment claims in a timely manner.

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