SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — Some people relying on unemployment benefits to weather the pandemic have been told by the California Employment Development Department that their accounts are frozen while it investigates fraud.
At the beginning of the year, an email was sent to some recipients saying their claim may be tied to fraudulent activity.
“Just incredibly horrible timing,” San Francisco resident Mark Brewer said. “Just so cold.”
Brewer has been on pandemic unemployment assistance or PUA since March.
The former food delivery driver says he’s experienced a number of issues with EDD while scraping to get by on only the minimum payment of $167 a week for the last three months.
Throughout the pandemic, EDD has been dealing with several issues pertaining to fraud. But for Brewer, the freeze is another failure to help people who are struggling.
“I think they’re doing it because it’s a lazy approach and they just want to get rid of the fraud,” he said. “But at my expense and other people that are obviously not fraudsters.”
State leaders, including Senator Scott Weiner, say their offices have been fielding lots of complaints about the EDD account suspensions.
Senator Weiner says he understands the EDD wants to get to the bottom of the fraudulent activity, but it shouldn’t be done in a way that hurts honest people.
“People have had to deal with way too much in terms of accessing the benefits, we have this huge backlog in terms of getting people approved… and now we have this,” Weiner said.
The EDD says recipients will not be able to verify their identity until Jan. 6th, a week after the notifications were sent out.
Meanwhile, bills are becoming past due and the frustrations are mounting. How long it will take to resolve the issue is still in question.
“Even if it’s resolved pretty quickly, why push people over the edge? Why give them this right at the end of 2020?” Brewer said.