Greensboro woman told to pay back nearly $15,000 in unemployment benefits

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Thousands of people across our state filed for unemployment because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A Greensboro woman did it and now is being told she has to pay back nearly $15,000. If she doesn’t return the cash there are threats of legal action.

Natalie Hartnett lost her job in March. She applied for unemployment benefits with the North Carolina Division of Employment Security Commission and was approved.

“I have an approval letter,” Hartnett said. “I have what shows them pulling in my W-2 wages from last year and determining the amount that I’m eligible for.”

Over the course of several months while on unemployment Hartnett received checks totaling nearly $15,000.

“All that money that they sent me each week went to pay my monthly bills,” she said.

Now months later and off of unemployment she got a letter in the mail asking for all the money back.

“If I’m forced to pay this money my options are not make a car payment, not contribute to the mortgage, other bills aren’t going to get paid,” she said.

The letter offers no explanation for Hartnett. When she calls the number given to her for questions, the line is busy or she can’t get anyone to answer.

“I don’t feel that it’s fair that I should have to pay something back that I was rightfully entitled to,” she said.

In an e-mail to FOX8, a Division of Employment Security Commission spokesperson said overpayments can happen when new or false information is filed with the agency. That’s when the person is notified to pay back the money, which can be done in monthly payments.

“This could happen to anybody whether you’re doing everything right or not to file unemployment, they could turn around and reverse it,” Hartnett said.

The Employment Security Commission recommends filling out employment benefits correctly. It’s important to report any money you make, even if it’s a part-time job, while you’re receiving benefits.

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