37 Florida Lottery winners lose money to DEO overpayments

Lotto ticket winners turn to Make Ends Meet after losing thousands in prize money

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. – What was supposed to be a happy day at the lottery office turned into a financial gut punch for Florida couple Dolly Kountz and Dave Kreshpane.

The couple from Stuart walked into a Palm Beach County lottery office a few weeks ago to collect $2,900 in prize money from a Pick 4 ticket only to be told Kountz owed $11,000 in unemployment overpayments to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

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“My jaw dropped,” Kountz told News 6 from her Palm Beach County home. ”I had no idea until I went to cash the ticket.”

Her story has been seen dozens of times.

Since News 6 started reporting similar situations over the past months, 37 messages have landed in the Make Ends Meet inbox from lotto scratch-off and ticket winners who were handed a sheet of paper with a list of “unusual circumstances”—from child support to DEO unemployment overpayments—that allowed the state to garnish the money.

“I expected a physical letter or something and I got nothing,” Kountz said. “I went to the unemployment office and they told me, ‘You’re among thousands.’”

Kreshpane blamed the DEO for poor communication after he learned about his surprise overpayment bill of $400.

Both Kreshpane and Kountz were approved for unemployment benefits and said they had no idea they were disqualified.

“Nobody seemed to care down there (at the lottery office),” Kreshpane said. “They just said, ‘Here you go, here’s the form. See you later.’”

That form is a waiver request that in most cases has been approved by the DEO. You usually get a determination in two to four weeks.

With Tax Day fast approaching, anyone who collected unemployment benefits should check their CONNECT account to be sure there are no overpayment notices.

Once Kountz filled in the waiver, she received a response that indicated it was approved.

While the message is promising, as of Tuesday, the couple said they were still waiting for the lottery money to be returned.

To help the process along, we asked Kountz to get a proof of employment letter from her employer.

DEO Press Secretary Leigh McGowan told News 6 any “non-fraudulent” cases between March 1, 2020, and Sept. 4, 2021, were indefinitely deferred from collection agency submissions.

“It’s important for your readers and viewers to know there may be actions they need to take on their previously filed Reemployment Assistance claim in order to resolve their existing overpayment. As such, DEO encourages claimants to check their Reemployment Assistance account frequently and take actions on their claim when prompted,” McGowan wrote in part in an email to News 6.

Floridians can click this link for guidance on how to resolve their overpayment, which includes a Federal Overpayment Waiver Request guide and an example of the form, as well as an example of the Overpayment Waiver Request Form.

Additionally, DEO provides the Reemployment Assistance Help Center, which allows claimants to receive assistance and make requests in real time, at their convenience.

Florida Reemployment Assistance claimants seeking to resolve overpayments issues can also visit the DEO’s website here.

If you have a financial issue, email makeendsmeet@wkmg.com or simply text the words “Make Ends Meet” to 407-676-7428. Please include the financial issue you’re dealing with and any documentation you may have.

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About the Author

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.

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