The Governor of Florida on Friday ordered the state to stop assigning accounts to debt collectors in situations where individuals were overpaid unemployment benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic because of issues that occurred as a result of expediting approvals to help those in need.
Gov. Ron DeSantis asked the Department of Economic Opportunity to defer referrals of accounts to collection agencies for any non-fraudulent overpayment of unemployment benefits that were incurred between March 2020 and September 2021. The exact amount of unemployment benefits that were overpaid was not disclosed, but the state has distributed $32 billion in total unemployment benefits to 2.4 million Floridians. About $7 billion of that total came from the state; the rest came from the federal government.
The referrals of overpayments has now been deferred until January 2023.
“In Florida, we have chosen to lift people up instead of shutting them down and we must continue to lead with compassion and grace to help Floridians elevate above avoidable setbacks in their personal economic recoveries,” Gov. DeSantis wrote to Secretary Dane Eagle of the Department of Economic Opportunity. “To that end, I am directing you to submit a request to the state’s Chief Financial Officer to indefinitely defer all referrals to collection agencies for all non-fraudulent overpayments incurred during the pandemic.”
The deferral will provide the state with time to sort out any issues with respect to overpayments. The DEO has announced it has taken the following steps:
- 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.