Barber told he owes nearly $3,000 back to state after being overpaid unemployment benefits

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INDIANAPOLIS — Normalcy is slowly returning to Commissary Barber in downtown Indy.

But barber Philip Ervin is still waiting for business to pick back up after his chair was forced to sit empty for 10 weeks.

“Looking at the schedule now it is not nearly as busy as it once was,” Ervin said. “A lot of people aren’t working downtown. They’re working from home or they don’t live here anymore. There’s a lot of people who still fear coming into a barber shop, the list kinda goes on.”

Despite less revenue than pre-COVID, at least he and his coworkers had received 10 weeks of unemployment benefits. The money would help him pay his bills…at least he thought it would.

“About two to three weeks ago, I logged on (unemployment website) to see, and I had a big message pop up across my screen, and it said that I owed $2,950 dollars back to the state,” Ervin said.

That’s nearly $3,000 dollars the state apparently overpaid him throughout those 10 weeks. Now they want it back.

“That was there for me to help me survive and pay my mortgage and feed my daughter and do all those things,” Ervin said. “To just have $3,000 laying around to pay you back… I don’t have that.”

His coworkers also have the same issue. Some were told they owe around $2,000, others were told they owe closer to $10,000.

“Overpayments are part of our system, we have them all the time pre pandemic,” said Josh Richardson, chief of staff with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

The department says there is no systematic issue with overpayments, but they do happen. Richardson says it’s usually because of a mistake made when filing.

While he could not speak specifically to Ervin’s situation, he spoke in general about overpayments.

“To the extent that an individual is reporting their earnings correctly on those vouchers, then it’s unlikely that that will lead to an overpayment,” Richardson said. “It’s not necessarily that there was any fraud that was perpetrated, but it is that later information came to us and we reached the determination that you actually weren’t eligible for what you got.”

But Ervin says he filed everything correctly. He believes the problem may have to do with a small amount of PPP money he received. He’s now appealing his case, hoping for answers.

“It wasn’t like we were lying or trying to make more money, we were just simply trying to pay our bills,” said Ervin.

The Department of Workforce Development says they work with people to set up repayment plans when overpayments occur and are more flexible during the pandemic.

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