It’s hard enough to be on unemployment during the pandemic but, many people who were getting Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, all of sudden, were denied. Then, adding insult to injury- the Commonwealth of Massachusetts told them they have to return the money which amounts to roughly $10,000 per person.

Preschool teacher, Anne Ciampi loves her work.

“You can’t put a price tag on the love, respect, and just open arms.  It was really beautiful,” said Ciampi.

But during the pandemic, enrollment dropped at the Catholic school where she taught , and she was let go. “I was devastated,” she said.

She started receiving pandemic unemployment benefits amounting to $648.

“Everything was going pretty smooth,” said Ciampi.

But things changed one day in late April.

“Right away it says denied.  But, the thing that really freaked me out is that it said that I owe,” she said.

That’s right, the state told Ciampi she owed $11,000 because she was overpaid. “I’m like, that’s ludicrous,” said she.

Ciampi is not alone- 7NEWS spoke to several other people who also owe the state money.

“It’s saying that I owe, $9,639,” said Tom Granatsis.

“Suddenly I owe them $10,000,” said Peter Podobry.

Granatsis was laid off from his security guard job during the pandemic.

“It’s absolutely devastating,” said Granatsis.

Podobry is a classical street musician who had no audience during the pandemic.

“I was in dire straits,” he said.

Approximately 54,000 people are also in dire straits. The state says it overpaid $336 million to people who were getting pandemic unemployment checks.

 The Department of Unemployment Assistance says this can happen when:

  • -The state is unable to verify if an unemployed person was in the workforce prior to the pandemic.
  • – The person recieved regular unemployment along with pandemic unemployment
  • – The state couldn’t verify a person’s identity

“I did everything they asked for,” said Ciampi.

Just like Ciampi, both Peter and Tom say they followed the rules.

“I sent them all the emails. I sent them all the verifications,” said Tom.

Anyone who owes back money can file an appeal. 

Which is what all three did.

Both Podobry and Granatsis. have started working again.  But, Ciampi won’t start teaching until the new school year starts in September.

“It’s been seven weeks and I have no money. I am so behind in my rent, my utilities, thank God I don’t have a lot of credit card bills.”

If you are in this situation, please follow these two links, and read them carefully- 

If you have received PUA assistance after Dec. 27, 2020, and have not filled out a “Proof of Employment/Substantian” form, please do that now, here on the State of Massachusetts website.

If your PUA benefits got cut off, and the state says you owe money, please follow all the instructions here on this State of Massachusetts website.  Instructions on how to file an appeal AND how to request an overpayment waiver are spelled out.

(Copyright (c) 2021 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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