City employee's benefits company closed down

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - About 1,500 city of Jacksonville employees remain without some of their medical benefits because the Atlanta company that provided the service has closed down.

EBS Atlanta has handled managed flexible spending accounts for city employees for the past 15 years.

When calls and emails were not returned over two weeks after Channel 4 first reported on the problem, reporter Vic Micolucci traveled to EBS Atlanta's office in Alpharetta, Ga., and found was locked.

For years, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office dispatcher Penny LaBelle has put $100 from each paycheck into her flex-spending account to pay for medical bills and prescriptions. Lately, the debit card that she uses to access those funds has been declined.

"I ended up having to pay money that I just didn't have," said LaBelle. "I've just had to go without, without a lot of medicine because of it."

For Josh Askew, his reimbursement checks from EBS Atlanta have bounced.

Micolucci said while the lights were on in the company's headquarters, the doors were locked and there was a failed Federal Express delivery notice on the door.

People who work at neighboring companies said they hadn't seen anyone in the EBS office for weeks.

James Cifelli, an attorney for some of the EBS executives, told said the company was having problems with its bookkeeping and accounting. As a result of losing control of its finances, its bank, Fidelity, shut down the EPS accounts. He said when its debit card company also cut it off EPS, the business had to shut down.

Cifelli said he couldn't answer where the money participants placed with the plan went, he did say he would pass along the question to his clients. That was last week. By late Monday, Micolucci hasn't received any response.

Ultimately, the responsibility falls on the city because it hired EBS. A spokesman for Mayor Alvin Brown said the city has terminated its contract with EBS and have hired WageWorks Inc. to take over the accounts.

"The city stopped sending employee payroll contributions to EBS Atlanta as soon as it was aware of the problem," Aleizha Batson said. "These contributions will be available for reimbursing qualified expenditures. If there is a deficit between the total funds contributed by city employees and the total qualified expenditures, the city will cover the deficit

Batson also said Jacksonville may take legal action against EBS, if needed.

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