Lakeland man receives unsolicited unemployment benefits as thousands of jobless wait for payments

Florida Unemployment

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — For months, 8 On Your Side has fought for Floridians struggling to collect their unemployment benefits.

But Risdon Slate of Lakeland has the opposite problem: he’s been paid benefits he says he never applied for. He’s worried both about fraud, as well as needy Floridians who actually need that assistance.

In early July, Slate says he opened the mail to find two checks totaling $875. With them came a notice of monetary determination from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The notice included Slate’s correct name, address, salary information and even social security number, showing a maximum benefit of $3,300 dollars.

“I never filed for anything!” the criminology professor told 8 On Your Side.

Slate’s first thought was identity theft. But when he ran his credit, he said he found no red flags.

When he tried to contact the DEO for guidance, Slate says a representative told him they could not find proof of him or those checks in the system. They also advised him not to mail the checks back.

Slate says he was told the DEO advised him the fraud department would be in touch. Months later, he says there still hasn’t been any contact.

Meanwhile, getting benefits to the correct people continues to be a challenge. The state’s unemployment dashboard shows of the 2.3 million eligible claims received, at least 300,000 haven’t been paid out.

8 On Your Side hears weekly from viewers who can’t get their money, many seeking backpay for unpaid benefits from months ago.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one who received this type of benefit when I shouldn’t have,” Slate said. “What I’m worried about is these poor people out here who need help and they’re not getting it, and they should be.”

8 On Your Side contacted the DEO to notify them of the potential fraud and Slate’s struggles to contact the fraud department.

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