State Assistance May Have To Be Returned For Some

A few weeks before the storm, Pat Torrez had quit her job at the Home Depot in Biloxi while waiting to start her new job here at the Hard Rock Casino.

"Hard Rock was destroyed and we were planning our grand opening that week, and after the storm destroyed it, we applied for disaster unemployment," said Torrez.

18-year old Danielle Vollmar of Gautier did the same after having to quit her job at Cajun's in Gulfport, due to the coastwide transportation problems following the storm.

They were both told they qualified to receive disaster unemployment assistance, and they both stopped receiving assistance when they soon found temporary jobs.

But it's what is happening five months after the hurricane that is throwing them for a loop.

"I received a letter from the Mississippi Department of Unemployment saying that I did not qualify for the unemployment and that I was gonna have to pay back all of the benefits that I had received during that time until I was employed again. They want 1260 dollars back and with threats of interest, penalties, and prosecution, and garnishments. They want me to pay 150 dollars a month," said Torrez.

"They want me to pay back the amount of $848.80. I go to school and I'm on full scholarship, and during the semester, the money I don't use, I get back and instead of me using that for my next semester, I will have to use that money to pay back my unemployment," said Vollmar.

Unemployment would be collected from the companies where the ladies worked the previous six months. Those companies fought, and won, which is why the state now wants its money back.

While both ladies say they will try to pay what they owe in increments, they think having to pay money back that they thought was designed to help them during a rough period is unfair, and should be clarified.

"There's people out there didn't lose their jobs, that are getting unemployment, and nothing is being done about it and us who are honest and you know, really needed it are being taken advantage of," said Vollmar.

A spokesperson for the state department of employment security told us 40, 699 disaster unemployment claims were filed.

But when WLOX spoke to her late Friday afternoon, she was unable to tell us how many of those people are getting payback letters.

Anyone with questions about pay back letters should call 1-888-844-3566.