ORLANDO, Fla. – Lillian Lagares of Kissimmee still cannot believe the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity asked her to reimburse a staggering $21,200 in state and federal unemployment benefits.
“I mean I couldn’t sleep at night,” she told News 6. “I was freaking out!”
The long-time employee of Universal’s Cabana Bay Resort said she was part of the staff furloughed in 2020 because of COVID-19.
A letter obtained by News 6 confirmed she had been placed on “unpaid leave” by the resort in March 2020.
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“It’s not like they (Universal) forgot about me,” she said. " I didn’t want to lose my benefits.”
Even though she was furloughed, Lagares — who worked with the resort for six years — still received medical benefits.
Unfortunately, the fact that she did not pursue new employment triggered a red flag in Tallahassee.
A year later, she was reinstated back on the job with full benefits, but that letter from the DEO demanding payment for “benefits received” put her in a panic.
“I don’t have $21,000,” she said. “I just don’t.”
She contacted News 6 and Make Ends Meet, and we contacted the DEO to review her case.
Three weeks after we interviewed Lagares, a representative from the DEO called her, and within 24 hours, the demand for payment was dropped.
“I was like: thank you Jesus, I was so happy, " she said. “Thank you so much!”
If you have a state unemployment issue, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or text the words “make ends meet” along with your issue to (407) 676-7428.
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