INGLEWOOD, Calif. (NewsNation Now) — California’s economic shutdown due to COVID-19 left millions of people jobless back in March. The state’s unemployment agency was so overwhelmed it recently stopped taking applications in order to process more than a million backlogged claims.
While California’s Employment Development Department has processed more than 13.6 million unemployment claims and paid out nearly $94 billion, many of the unemployed here have yet to benefit.
EDD Director Sharon Hilliard told a legislative committee that new technology to screen for fraud should speed things up.
“Moving forward this won’t be a concern. At this point, we’ve got to make sure that the claims that we still need to process are people that are eligible, that are the ones getting paid,” Hilliard said.
EDD halted the process for the past two weeks to install a system upgrade and reset. The reset cleared 246,000 claims out of the total backlog of 1.6 million.
The holdup was identity verification, which had been done manually.
The fraud problem recently surfaced in a big way in Beverly Hills. Police there have made multiple arrests, linked to a slew of suspicious purchases at high end stores.
“In the last 60 days, we’ve arrested over a hundred people for EDD fraud. We recovered over 200 fraudulent EDD cards with an estimated street value of over $4 million,” Marc Coopwood, Assistant Chief of Police, Beverly Hills Police Department said.
California Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) expressed little confidence in Hilliard’s handling of the department or the filtering for fraud.
“It strikes me as bureaucratically criminally negligent that under your leadership, there has not been more devoted to this fraud. If potentially billions of dollars are being stolen from the people of California from our constituents,” Chiu said.
Even with the system improvements, EDD reports it will take until January to clear the total backlog on claims.