SAN DIEGO – Many unemployed Californians are unable to reap the much-needed benefits of a new year with payments on hold while state officials examine cases of potential fraud.
About 3.5 million unemployment claims were deemed “potentially fraudulent” and about 1.9 million of those were disqualified, according to the California Employment Development Department. The agency said impacted residents are being guided to verify their identity in a phased-approach, but some say the they’re still left wondering when they’ll get their shot for payments to resume.
“It’s really tough,” Chula Vista resident Anna Malabanan said.
Nearly 2 million claims already have been disqualified and payment was suspended for about 1.4 million pending verification. The state has acknowledged that the department was bilked out of hundreds of millions of dollars in COVID-19 unemployment funds that went to fraudsters.
Malabanan said she’s one of about 1.4 million Californians whose claims were suspended at the new year while the state sorts of fraud. That means she won’t be able to receive any payments until the state can verify her identity.
“I’m nervous in the fact that I’m still a college student” she said. “I have debts to pay, too, and I have car loan and stuff like that.”
She previously had worked for a Miramar-based engineering company and recently became unemployed due to COVID-19 concerns. But shortly after filing for unemployment, she received a letter from the EDD, which indicated her account could be linked to fraud.
The agency said it would send instructions Wednesday to verify her identity to resume payments.
“And they kept saying we can’t do anything for you until the beginning of Jan. 6, which is when we’ll send you detailed information on how to verify and all that process,” she said, “But it’s Jan. 6 and I still haven’t heard from them.”