News 6 helps end Florida man’s wait for $10K lotto prize

DEO corrects unemployment overpayment dispute by phone

ORLANDO, Fla. – The last time Steven Terrell made the hourlong drive to the lottery district office in Fort Myers to collect his $10,000 lotto scratch-off prize, he was told the Department of Economic Opportunity was delaying release of the money because of an unemployment overpayment issue.

“After that I just felt shattered,” Terrell recalled. “I felt like, I’m not going to get it.”

Terrell told News 6 the DEO indicated it would take up to six weeks to get the problem resolved with no guarantee he would get the funds.

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“They said unfortunately, we’re going to have to hold your money until the DEO clears it,” Terrell recalled.

Terrell made the drive back to the district office Tuesday morning with a much better ending; a check for $7,600 (less taxes) issued to one Steven Terrell of Venice, Florida.

“Incredible, you guys are incredible,” Terrell told News 6. “I appreciate it so much, I don’t know what to say.”

News 6 and Make Ends Meet presented the DEO with documents that confirmed Terrell, the owner of a pressure washing company in Venice, Florida, had qualified for unemployment benefits.

It turns out Terrell never received the waiver documents needed to confirm his eligibility for benefits.

Last Friday, the DEO emailed News 6 with news that the agency had “direct communication with Mr. Terrell.”

Once the waiver was completed and approved, the DEO notified the Florida Lottery that his reemployment overpayment had been resolved.

DEO Press Secretary Leigh McGowan said an overpayment is established when ”DEO does not receive sufficient information to determine eligibility for a claim.”

“To be clear,” McGowan said, “we realize that just because an overpayment is flagged in an account, it does not mean an overpayment has occurred. In fact, DEO finds that most overpayments result from incomplete claims, which can be resolved by completing the required steps to verify eligibility.”

McGowan said many of these delays could be avoided if claimants would check their accounts for updates. Of course in many cases, once they return to work most claimants stop checking the accounts.

“DEO proactively notifies all claimants regarding any outstanding issues on current and/or previous Reemployment Assistance claims,” McGowan said, “Unfortunately, many claimants do not check their accounts until they win the lottery, their tax return is intercepted, or some other event motivates them to complete the claims process. To prevent this, Reemployment Assistance claimants are strongly encouraged to check their Reemployment Assistance accounts regularly, keep their contact information updated, and take action on their claim(s) when prompted.

If you have an unemployment or another consumer issue email or text the words make ends meet along with your issue and documents to 407-676-7428.

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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.