ORLANDO, Fla. – The thrill of winning an instant lottery prize turned to unexpected disappointment for Mike Everett, Maria Sanchez and at least 13 other Florida Lottery winners who were told their prizes were garnished by the Department of Economic Opportunity to cover unemployment overpayments.
“It’s one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever dealt with,” Everett told News 6.
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News 6 presented his work history and a letter from an Applebee’s regional manager to demonstrate Everett was eligible for the five weeks of jobless benefits in question.
Three days later, Everett, a former manager trainee with Applebee’s, was able to walk into the Florida Lottery office in Altamonte Springs and collect a check for $5,000, the money he won on a Monopoly “Doubler” lotto ticket just days earlier.
“I was on my way to work at about 2:30 p.m. Monday,” Everett recalled. “It was from Tallahassee and I thought this has to be the lottery.”
The DEO waived the overpayment status, clearing the way for the hefty prize to be issued by the lotto office.
“Oh, it feels fantastic,” Everett told News 6. “Big time results, I can’t thank you guys enough.”
Annia Vasalloo called Make Ends Meet after her mother, Maria Sanchez lost nearly half of her $5,000 Pick 4 cash prize to a DEO overpayment.
Vasalloo told News 6 she handles taxes and the unemployment forms for her mother because she is not computer savvy. In her view, the bill did not make sense.
“She only received $1,400, and paid $200 in taxes,” she said. “They took away the money real quick, like that day.”
News 6 contacted the DEO and the account was reviewed and updated to reflect no overpayment debt.
Maria Sanchez was ready to give up because she had received that lottery/DEO notice on May 26.
Once Vasalloo contacted News 6 and Make Ends Meet, the mistake was taken care of, and she said her mother was ecstatic.
“She’s like, ‘You’re not going to believe it, I opened my mailbox and my money was there,’” a smiling Vasalloo told News 6. “She was so excited.”
DEO Press Secretary Leigh McGowan told News 6 claimants who received reemployment assistance benefits for the weeks between March 15, 2020, and May 9, 2020, “were required, by the United States Department of Labor, to take action by answering the certification questions for the weeks the claimant received benefit payments during that time period.”
They are the same questions “that claimants answer when they request benefit payments in CONNECT for each week the claimant remains unemployed,” McGowan said. “Failure to certify for these weeks resulted in an overpayment for claimants.”
News 6 is currently investigating 13 lottery cases and will present them to the DEO once they are vetted and confirmed.
Claimants with questions regarding reemployment assistance overpayments are encouraged to visit DEO’s Reemployment Assistance Help Center for more information and to request assistance.
If you have an unemployment issue, email email@example.com or text the words “Make Ends Meet” along with your claimant number to 407-676-7428.