State Error Causes Family to Become Homeless

Posted in the Monmouth Junction Forum

concernedmama

East Orange, NJ

#1 May 7, 2009
Despite signing up with multiple employment agencies and sending out approximately 30 resumes per week, I have been unemployed since the end of August, 2008. During this time, I have been collecting unemployment benefits.
My original unemployment claim was exhausted, and I was to be switched over to extended unemployment benefits. When the Division of Unemployment was doing this, they had a bit of confusion, which resulted in benefits being withheld until the confusion was worked out.
At this time, I received a phone call from the Monetary Adjustment Department. Their claim was that the Division of Unemployment erroneously included severance pay when making their original determination of benefits. After discussing this with their employee, I agree with that assessment. Their employee said that they would have to make a monetary adjustment which would result in a refund due to the Division of Unemployment but that I should not worry about it as the refund amount would be taken out of the balance of the extended unemployment benefits.
At this point, I already hadn’t received unemployment benefits for a little while and was behind on my rent. My landlord and I came to an agreement that I would make a rather large payment when I received my next unemployment check, scheduled to be received May 8, 2009, then another large payment when I received a check from unemployment two weeks later. In the meantime, my landlord was protecting his rights and filed for eviction with the understanding that once the first payment was made, we would sign a promissory note at court.
On May 5, 2009, I called to file for unemployment benefits, as was scheduled. The recording said that I must speak with an employee before the claim could be processed.
After being on hold for over an hour, Lee got on the phone. She explained that she would have to take the information from me and have the Adjustment Department cut a check.
On May 6, 2009, I called the Division of Unemployment Information phone number to ensure that a check was cut. Per their recording, it had not been processed.
I called the Regional Office and once again spoke with Lee. She stated that since there was a refund amount due, the Division of Unemployment was taking the benefit amount to reimburse themselves for the overpayment.
I was flabbergasted. I explained to Lee that the Monetary Adjustment Department told me that the amount of overpayment would come from the balance of the extended unemployment benefits. Lee said that was not the way it works. I explained once again that it was due to an error by the Division of Unemployment and was not actually an overpayment. The claim should have been switched over to the extended benefits sooner. It was not my fault that this did not happen. Lee said there was nothing else she could do for me, but gave me the phone number for their Refund Department.
concernedmama

East Orange, NJ

#2 May 7, 2009
The fact that the Division of Unemployment has an entire department devoted to overpayment of claims tells me that errors such as this are common. However, the employees of the Division of Unemployment have not idea, nor do they care to understand, how their errors affect people’s lives.
I called the Refund Department and spoke with Mr. Gonzales. He stated that the law allowed the Division to withhold all benefit amounts in order to repay any overpayments. I explained to him that this was not technically an overpayment; this was the Division of Unemployment’s error in not switching the claim to the extended benefits when it should have been switched.
I ended up speaking with Mrs. Hollica, the supervisor of the Refund Department. She clearly did not want to discuss anything that didn’t fall within her category of “overpayments”. Mrs. Hollica stated, in a very unkind way, that the law allows for them to withhold all unemployment benefits in the event of an overpayment. Mrs. Hollica did not care how the overpayment occurred nor what I was told from the Monetary Adjustment Department. They were withholding all benefits until the overpayment amount was refunded to the Division, which means that if I am still eligible for unemployment benefits on May 29, that is the date that I would receive another check. I tried to explain to her that I am a single mother of two boys, this was not MY error, this was an error by an employee of the Division of Unemployment and I cannot have no money coming into the household for another month without losing everything I‘d worked for all my life. Mrs. Hollica was uncaring and said that it was not her problem.
I immediately contacted Governor Corzine’s office. If you ever want to be treated like a piece of garbage, I suggest calling there. The first person I spoke with was a receptionist, directing my call. I briefly explained the problem to her. She asked if I had spoken with the Director of the Division of Unemployment. I stated that I had not and had no intention of speaking with the Director at that moment. I wanted to file a complaint with the Governor’s Office.
The receptionist transferred me to Liz. Liz snorted and told me that the Division has a right by law to withhold all unemployment benefits until any overpayment is refunded. I explained that I was aware of this, having been told it no less than three times already, and I wanted to speak with someone that could do something to help my family out since we were on the verge of losing everything due to a Division of Unemployment error. Liz suggested that I contact Social Services. Nice, eh? Anyway, I informed her that I wanted to file a complaint with the Governor’s Office. Liz then transferred me to Carol.
Carol began the same way that Liz did. Once again, I explained that I was aware that the Division has a right by law to withhold benefits due to overpayment, but that this was a Division error and my family was suffering and would be homeless due to it. Carol put me through to Robin Tams of the Division of Unemployment.
Ms. Tams began the same way that Liz and Carol began. At this point, I was tired of hearing about the rights of the Division. What about the rights of the people that the Division was created to help? I explained to Ms. Tams that the law that allows the Division to withhold benefits until overpayments are refunded is punishing people that had nothing to do with the overpayment. I also explained that my children and I would be homeless by the end of next week due to their error, I had no money to put food on the table for my children and would thus lose custody of them. I explained that just because they have the “right” to do something by law doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. Does this law allow for common sense?
Ms. Tams then suggested that I leave a message for her supervisor, Mr. Marich. Mr. Marich was out of the office yesterday but I was assured that he would call me back today, May 7.
concernedmama

East Orange, NJ

#3 May 8, 2009
Mr. Marich did call me back yesterday. He stated that he reviewed the case and determined that it was a Division error and could move this into that category. What that means is that instead of having my entire unemployment benefit check withheld until the overpayment is refunded, they will withhold HALF of the check. So, now my children and I get to try to live on less than $1,000 per month for two months.

We'll be living in my car within two weeks. See you at the soup kitchen!
concernedmama

East Orange, NJ

#4 May 9, 2009
If you falsify information to the Division of Unemployment in order to collect benefits and then go back to work, you can make a payment arrangement with the Division and pay back all overpayments at the rate of $69 per month.

Why, then, do I have to be penalized for their error to the point that I will lose my home and my children? What is the reasoning behind this?
Kureno

Estonia

#5 May 10, 2009
That's..wow.

While I'm not surprised they entirely screwed it up, it's infuriating to think this could happen anywhere, at any similar department, at any given time. And it'll always be because the business model of said organization is broken right from the start.

Do continue your battle. For a start, if you're lucky, find the employees directly related to this incident, such as the one who notified you of the overpayment and the actions that were suppose to be taken for it. It's sinked into the paperwork pretty deep, but it's in there. Keep looking.

Your patience so far is admirable, and that's what you need the most when it comes to these things, to get to the people upstairs.

Oh and if all else fails, publish all this information in more places on the internet, and luck might strike again in the form of mass spreading.

Good luck.

~Kureno
concernedmama

East Orange, NJ

#6 May 10, 2009
Kureno, thank you for your kind words. I will continue this battle and will publish it everywhere I can. I will also review the paperwork again for additional names.

I also sent a detailed email to Senator Bill Baroni, Assemblyman Wayne Deangelo and Assemblywoman Linda Greenstein. I'm not finised yet either. I will send letters to every politican that can even remotely be connected to NJ.
angery in new jerse

Pleasantville, NJ

#7 May 11, 2009
wow.. i am so sorry we live in suck a messed up state... they tried to pull some things with me over that family care i have ben outta work since 1/2007 and had to move in with a friend but they took all health insurance away .. the only was to get anywhere is also to contact the new and papers about this so everyone knows about it.. they can keep your name outta it to protect your kids these people don't know they just sit in there air conditioned/heated cozy offices not aware that their stupid mistakes is costing other innocent people to have a loss of some sort.. i would also contact a lawyer for the pain and suffering that occurred during this .. don't let them get away with this... they have been walking all over the residents of this state for so long, they should not be able to get away with it, but then again they give everything to these illegal immigrants but not to the people who are suffering that abide the law and have worked hard for everything they have...
good luck
angery in new jersey

Pleasantville, NJ

#8 May 11, 2009
make sure you call legal services inyour area they can help to try to work something out about being evited you have children.. so check the tenant rights for nj...
concernedmama

East Orange, NJ

#9 May 11, 2009
Thank you Angry. I will contact Legal Services in the morning. I appreciate your thoughts.
concernedmama

East Orange, NJ

#10 May 14, 2009
I am out of luck. The eviction went through. If I don't come up with the back rent by the end of next week, we will be on the streets.

Right now, I really hate this state.

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