MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — Many Tennesseans depended on unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, but now, Uncle Sam wants a refund.

Cindy Saulsberry received more than $10,000 in unemployment benefits from May 2020 to August 2021, and she recently learned she has to pay it all back due to “overpayment.”

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“I’m holding back tears right now,” Saulsberry said.

Saulsberry has worked as an Uber driver for years, but during COVID-19, she filed for unemployment benefits after being told she qualified as a gig worker. She told News 2 she had some issues certifying her filing, or answering questions about her job search, which was required by the state in order to receive benefits.

Saulsberry called and emailed the unemployment office dozens of times, asking for help with no response.

Despite the issues with the certification, Saulsberry still received benefits off and on.

Fast forward 18 months later, Saulsberry received multiple emails informing her she must return her benefits totaling more than $10,000, blaming her for the overpayment.

“If there is any responsibility I need to take, I will take it, but I don’t think it’s $10,000 worth,” Saulsberry said.

Saulsberry can only Uber part-time and is on disability because of her multiple sclerosis diagnosis. She told News 2 she has no idea how she will ever pay the state back.

“I have scrambled around wondering whether I need to get a roommate to help me pay for this because I don’t want it hanging over my head,” she said. “$10,000 is a lot of money to me, and it would take me years to pay it back.”

Saulsberry filed an appeal, which was rejected.

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She set up a payment plan for $50 per month until she can figure out a better solution.

“I will [pay] every month with fear behind me because they could try to garnish my wages from Ubering, they could put a lien on my house, pretty much they have the power to do whatever they want whenever,” Saulsberry said.

A spokesperson for the unemployment office told News 2 in an email the U.S. Department of Labor requires the state to audit every unemployment claim processed during the pandemic. Tennessee processed more than one million claims during that time and has been auditing claims for more than a year.