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VEC letter tells Hampton Roads resident she was overpaid in 2020...and needs to pay it back

Lisa Austin received a letter saying she needs to pay back thousands of dollars to the VEC, but she says it's still unclear as to why.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Lisa Austin and her husband are now happy in their Newport News home, after they both lost their jobs in the Spring of 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Austin worked for St. Leo's University at Langley's Air Base for about five years, when the pandemic caused university leaders to furlough many of the workers. Austin applied for unemployment a couple of times between May and June of 2020, as she went back to work and got furloughed again every few weeks.

In July, she and some of her coworkers were officially laid off from their jobs. Her husband also got furloughed from his job around the same time.

"COVID was a tough time for everybody," said Austin. "They closed us down July 17, 2020, which we had to go back on unemployment again and look for permanent employment."

Two years later, Austin and her husband are back on their feet working again. Just when the couple started to feel stable again, that's when Austin said she received a letter from the Virginia Employment Commission.

In the letter, the agency told Austin she was overpaid in 2020 around the time she applied for unemployment benefits. The letter then stated that Austin owed the VEC around $2,600.

The letter referred the overpayment to the time period when she worked at a Norfolk Public School between permanent jobs.

"And I said, well that doesn't add up, because the W-2 I have I filed taxes on says $1,400 that I made there, so how did you come up with the additional money that I owe?" Austin asked, upset about the overall situation.

Austin isn't the only one dealing with this problem. She said a former coworker received a similar letter, telling him to pay $1,200 to the VEC, claiming he got overpaid in 2020.

So far, Austin has not had any luck getting through to someone with the VEC on the phone. However, she said she's not paying up until she knows more.

"If people got overpaid because of COVID, work with them. A lot of people lost their jobs, like me. I had a five-year job," said Austin. "But the way they handled things, to me, was very sloppy."

Austin said the letter states if she doesn't pay the amount immediately, she is at risk of losing the benefits or ability to apply for unemployment again.

A spokeswoman from the VEC said her team is currently looking into these concerns and is working to find out if the agency sent the letters out by mistake. 

Stay with 13News Now as we follow this situation.

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