Out of work Arizonans asked to give their unemployment money back to the state

There are many Arizonans hoping that not only their unemployment funds will be reinstated, but that they also don't owe thousands of dollars.

FOX 10's Steve Nielsen learned the appeals are already rolling in after the state is trying to get back millions in unemployment they previously paid out.

Several unemployed residents talked with Nielsen and said they received a letter claiming they owe every dime of unemployment they've ever received. They've already appealed.

The state claims they intentionally filed for the wrong type of unemployment, but the claimants FOX 10 spoke with said they did exactly what the state told them to do.

Issue after issue collecting unemployment from the Arizona Department of Economic Security still couldn't have prepared Kim Smith for this.

"I was getting new claims on my bank account up until two weeks ago and it stopped again," Smith said.

Not only that, she got a letter claiming she intentionally applied for the wrong benefits and now owes everything she's collected since March when she lost her job.

"It would be close to $8,000 to $9,000."

Smith isn't alone.

In August, the state sent letters asking for money back from 3,741 Arizonans. The total amount was $4 million.

"Defeated is really the term, how we felt."

Brandi Lee's family was told the same. They owe all $9,000 they've received because they applied under the wrong type of unemployment.

DES says anyone can appeal.

They say overpayments are either because of fraud, an individual's error, or DES' error.

In some cases, if it's DES' fault, the overpayment wouldn't need to be repaid. In other cases, there are payment plans.

Lee says they appealed, but were told it will take six months for a hearing.

"You're disappointed when you know you've done everything correctly," Lee said.

Smith appealed, too, and is also waiting.

"It's ridiculous. It's stressful. It's time consuming to call every day and be on hold for two hours," Smith said.

"What are you supposed to do when you have kids?" Lee said.

DES says any money they collect from overpayments goes right back into the unemployment trust fund. They've already collected several million dollars this year from collecting overpayments.

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