Retired Melbourne woman pays $850 DEO overpayment, fights to get it back

Make Ends Meet works with state to get full refund

MELBOURNE, Fla. – A retired Melbourne woman issued two checks to the Department of Economic Opportunity’s trust fund after receiving unemployment overpayment notices totaling $850.

Debbie Potchik worked part-time for a cruise line company but lost her job in March 2020 because of COVID-19.

She said she applied for benefits and was approved, so the overpayment notices did not make sense.

“They said failure to repay would result in court action,” she said. ”A collection agency would be contacted.”

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Potchik told News 6 that the DEO notice was intimidating, so she decided to make the payments to avoid legal action.

She said she wanted to appeal the overpayment, but she had a difficult time getting through to the DEO offices.

“You can’t reach anybody,” she said. “It’s just like a round-robin type of thing. It takes you to one voicemail to the next, to the next.”

Potchik said she was finally able to file an appeal online, and the mediator ruled in her favor.

Unfortunately, he told her that getting the money back would be difficult.

“He said, ‘Debbie, I wish you hadn’t paid because I don’t know how you’re going to get your money back,’” she recalled. “You’re probably going to need to go to an outside source to help you.”

Potchik contacted News 6 and Make Ends Meet for help.

In turn, News 6 presented her documents to the DEO investigators, and the money was cleared for repayment.

“I knew that if I needed someone to help me get the money back on this, it would be your team,” she said. “You guys are all amazing. I appreciate your help in this so much.”

DEO Press Secretary Leigh McGowan told News 6, “Claimants who received Reemployment Assistance benefits during the weeks beginning March 1, 2020, through Sept. 4, 2021, were still required to fully complete the claim process.”

If a claimant failed to submit the required employment documents and/or respond to the fact-finding questions, an overpayment was established, " McGowan said. “For claimants who have overpayment at no fault of their own, a dedicated staff is available to help claimants resolve their overpayments, including support to complete the claim process and submit required documentation.”

If you have a consumer or unemployment issue, email or text the words make ends meet 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.