DES sends overpayment letters to some unemployed Arizonans

Thousands of letters have been sent to unemployment recipients claiming they owe money back to Arizona because of overpayments.

Because of this, one Arizona family was told they owed at least $8,000 back to the state. Their debt has since been wiped clean.

The Williams family was months behind on rent and was concerned they were going to be homeless soon. Add on multiple medical conditions, finding a new job to pay off the debt was nearly impossible.

"I had 3 dollars and 8 cents. That’s what I had," William Ramirez said. He and his wife Adelina Herrera received confusing news from the Department of Economic Security (DES).

They said the department signed him up for the wrong benefits and now he owes $8,000 back to the state. The stress made things worth for his health.

He’s had two brain surgeries in the last two years and suffers from seizures because of a rare disorder.

"A lot more seizures than he normally would of because of the stress. You know that’s scary for me because I don’t know if he’s going to come out of his seizure one day," Herrera explained.

All he wanted was to stop collecting unemployment and file for social security disability, which he says he qualifies for, but can’t receive because of the looming DES debt.

"When you’re body tells you it’s time. It’s time," Ramirez said.

Not long after their story aired on FOX 10, everything changed.

"I was like, 'So you’re saying I don’t have to pay no more?' And she was like, 'No, you’re good.' I was like, 'Alright, thank you,'" he said of his conversation with DES.

The $8,000 debt was cleared and he says they reinstated his benefits.

DES says they sent 2,486 letters to claimants claiming they owed the state money because of benefit overpayments. 1,177 were for fraud, 1,235 were claimant mistakes and 74 were because of a DES error.

William says he believes he was one of those 74 and is happy to now be able to focus on his bills, his family and his health.

"Without you guys helping, it wouldn’t have happened, it wouldn’t of. I would be fighting still and fighting it," Ramirez.

DES says if you’ve received one of these overpayment letters, you can appeal it, which is what Ramirez did before contacting FOX 10.

The total amount DES says they’re owed in overpayments from September is over $4 million.

For more reports on the Department of Economic Security, visit this link.