INDIANAPOLIS — For four months, Alyson Copenhaver was getting unemployment benefits. But that abruptly ended when she received a letter from the state ordering her to repay all of it - nearly $6,000.
"My mind was blown, because I didn’t know what I was doing you know. I was just never expecting to have to pay it back," said Copenhaver.
She had left a job to help take care of her sister. All her benefits were approved, so she was honestly confused when she got the letter. She said attempts to appeal were denied.
"It makes me sad. I have, like, no faith in the government. I’m afraid to take any money or anything in benefits because I am afraid I’ll have to pay it back," said Copenhaver.
She has since had to start returning her furniture to make monthly payments to the state.
Department of Workforce Development officials said several people have gotten notices to correct overpayments and combat fraud.
"If an individual has made a simple mistake in terms and we can verify that it’s not fraud, then there is a process in place for that," said DWD Commissioner Fred Payne. "We only want to go after overpayments that people did not legitimately receive. We’re not trying to be overly burdensome to individuals."
But several people who have received notices told 13News the process has been an incredible burden.
Last week, Michael Turner said he received a notice to repay nearly $10,000.
"I’d rather you turn me down and I find some other alternative than for you to give me the money and turn around and say I got to pay it back. That’s crazy," said Turner.
Turner lost work for 18 months when his employer shut down during the pandemic. He has since gone back to work, but the state said he must repay the overage he was given. Turner says he doesn’t know how.
"How am I going to feed my family? How am I going to do anything? I’ve got rent to pay and all of this. How am I going to do anything when the government is after you like this," said Turner.
He said he used the money to take care of normal expenses while out of work. He says he has called DWD. but was not given any options to appeal. The whole situation is frustrating.
"I’ve been working most of life. I have been paying taxes and everything. This is supposed to be my money anyway. How are you going to tell me I have to pay my money back to me? I don’t understand that," said Turner.