Cancer survivor gets Florida unemployment overpayment bill worth $16,000

News 6 and DEO work to erase stunning overpayment bill

ORLANDO, Fla. – Sylvia Intelisano, 74, of Palm Beach County, Florida said she will never forget the overpayment notice she received from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Intelisano filed for unemployment benefits in 2020 because she was not offered the option of scheduling tee times remotely for her employer, Kings Pointe golf club.

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She presented a physician’s note to the DEO that indicated she could not be outside because chemotherapy treatment for thyroid cancer left her extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

“She could die,” her wife Geri told News 6. “There’s no mask mandates, there’s no protection for employees, so this just isn’t fair.”

Sylvia had already been qualified for unemployment benefits by the DEO once before so the couple, married for 11 years, never expected that bombshell on Jan. 31.

“You think you’re getting some help from the federal government to make ends meet,” Intelisano said, “then they slap you with a bill of $16,000 to $18,000 to pay back.”

It was an overpayment notice for $16,200, money that was issued without warning.

Make Ends Meet presented a paper trail of documents that confirmed Sylvia’s failing health, willingness to work and limitations forced on her by COVID-19.

Within 24 hours the DEO contacted her by phone and asked her to review her DEO account. The debt had been wiped clean.

“It was absolutely a huge weight off our shoulders,” Sylvia said. “Thank you.”

Her wife Geri was emotional, thankful that what would have ruined them financially was avoided because she was able to connect with News 6 and Make Ends Meet.

“I feel inspired that you helped us,” Geri said. “There’s no way that this would have been fixed if you didn’t help us.”

The DEO is aware of overpayment issues and has set up options to guide claimants to clear up any mistakes. In addition, to assist claimants in navigating overpayments on their accounts, DEO has made the following resources available:

For more information about Reemployment Assistance overpayments, click here.

Finally, if you have an unemployment issue email or text the words make ends meet along with your issue to 407-676-7428.

About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.