Some Indiana teachers find themselves in a bind after receiving notice to repay thousands of dollars in unemployment benefits.
The teachers say the education centers they work for told them they qualified for unemployment payments during the summer months when they were not teaching, but the government disagrees.
"I'm fighting to pay my mortgage, car," one teacher told RTV6's Ebone Monet. "You know, you can get a deferment for so many months, but then you're losing everything."
"I am getting ready to lose everything, and it's just not fair," another teacher said.
These teachers work for Family Development Services, a Head Start organization.
They said unemployment benefits kept them afloat over the summer, but they said now they've suddenly been cut off.
"Our employer says that we should be filing. Our employer says we should receive benefits, so why should we feel our employer to be wrong?" one teacher said.
State officials told RTV6's Ebone Monet the problem stems from a law change that makes Head Start teachers ineligible for unemployment benefits if they're out of work for a short time.
Indiana Workforce Development spokesman Joe Frank said the employers got ample notice of the law change that keeps these teachers from collecting unemployment.
"Teachers are not eligible for insurance benefits if they have reasonable assurance that they'll be hired back on after Christmas and summer breaks, so (for) the Head Start folks, the law was changed so that they would be treated just like regular teachers," Frank said.
Frank said the news of the policy change went out on post cards, state websites and inside a handbook that claimants must acknowledge reading before they'll get benefits.
"Here on Page 9, it says that the following individuals are not eligible for unemployment benefits: employees of Head Start Program who are on planned breaks such as summer vacation," Frank said.
The teachers are not only faced with a month without an income, but they'll have to pay back the unemployment benefits that they mistakenly received.
Frank said the state is willing to work with the teachers, and officials understand they likely received the benefits by mistake.
"We're not trying to go out and get anyone. The federal government statutorily requires us to retrieve these funds when they're paid incorrectly."
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