CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Thousands of unemployed North Carolinians are suddenly getting half the check they were accustomed to because of a government mix-up.
The Employment Security Commission admits they made the mistake, overpaying some people and underpaying others over the past two years, but regardless of who made the mistake, they want the money back from those who were overpaid.
This mistake impacts people who have been receiving unemployment benefits for more than a year, amounting to 38,000 people in all. Of that number, 85 percent of people were overpaid. The other 15 percent will actually be getting additional money because they were underpaid.
Billy Heath is part of the majority of those affected. He received multiple letters from the North Carolina Employment Security Commission last week.
He was laid off a year ago, in March.
“I just went to work on a Friday morning and by 8:15 I was leaving,” he says.
The father of three has been collecting unemployment ever since that morning.
“You feel like you failed, I hated to come home and tell my wife,” he said.
Now his family must face another curveball.
“I got three letters in the mail last Thursday,” he says. “Friday I got two more letters with more money I owed them.”
The letters are from North Carolina's Employment Security Commission saying that they goofed and Heath, along with thousands of others, was somehow overpaid.
The letters all list different amounts, but the rest of the content is consistent and says the state will take the money back. According to the state, Heath owes over $1,000.
“What happened on their end?” Heath asks. “Because on my end, I’ve done everything like I was supposed to do.”
Larry Parker with the NC ESC says there was an accounting error and blames all the extensions granted for confusing the computer systems.
North Carolina, meanwhile, isn’t waiting to take the money back.
Heath's most recent check, which was delivered just two days after he received word of the mix-up, is for half of the amount that he'd been getting.
“It’s like through your life you've done the right thing and then things like this happen, what can you do?”
He worries about keeping the power and the water on and he struggles to face his family.
“They depend on me, I feel like I’ve let them down,” he says.
State officials say they want to help people through this and will deal with everyone on a case by case basis.
You can contact them directly at 1-888-737-0259 or send an email to email@example.com.