About 1.6 million Californians could soon begin to see months of unpaid unemployment benefits finally get to their bank accounts.
Their arrival will be thanks to the state employment development department special group initiative to deal with approximately 600,000 unemployed claims stuck in processing for 21 days or more. EDD will also work to clear payments to another 1 million workers who received at least one benefit payment during the pandemic-induced recession but stopped receiving benefits without notice due to various certification issues and waited months for EDD to resolve eligibility and return of payments.
The California Task Force report states that outdated technology and staff shortages are the biggest concerns about slowing down the processing of benefits. Almost 4.6 million Californians filed unemployment claims between March and May – 2.4 million more workers compared to the high unemployment rate since the fall of the Great Recession.
An unprecedented wave of spam for the first time during the pandemic not only flooded state computer systems, but also created a convenient time for fraudsters to steal personal information and make false claims. The report notes that “there is evidence that California may in fact be the victim of a major organized fraud.” Cybersecurity experts have been called in to investigate a suspected increase in the 120,000 new Global Unemployment Assistance claims filed daily on August 31 and September 1, for example.
The report also found that existing identity verification measures aimed at preventing fraud were slowing down the legal claims process without properly identifying fraudulent activity. Once a claim for possible fraud is identified, it is moved from an automated system to a human controller. The reviewers then inform residents that they had to mail or fax additional documents to resolve their claims, a process that can delay progress by weeks. For the scale, EDD reports receiving an average of 60,368 new electronic claims each day during the week ending August 22nd. Of these, an average of 40% was launched for manual processing, which means that employees were expected to review 24,147 manual claims per day.
In an effort to eliminate the delay by January 2021, the California EDD will invest in new authentication technology to eliminate fraud and approve new claims more effectively. It has also refocused staff efforts to bring more experienced EDD employees through the older and more sophisticated applications.
The EDD no new unemployment claims will be processed However, during a two-week period that began on September 20, which could lead to a drop in income for many. The state estimates approximately 226,000 Californians filed initial unemployment benefits for state benefits in the week ending Sept. 26, and nearly 100,000 more applied for Global Unemployment Assistance under CARES
Those trying to make a new claim will be directed to a temporary web portal to complete their information and will be processed when the new system is up and running.
“New plaintiffs should not see delays in payment of benefits, and in fact many of them will receive their payments faster as they avoid the older time-consuming authentication process,” said EDD Director Sharon Hilliard wrote in a letter in California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Nationwide, some employees waited 7 months for benefits
While new system investments could bring welcome relief to many residents, California is far from the only state that has a crash of delays due to technology and personnel issues. For many Americans, their first experiences with the unemployment system during the pandemic were a nightmare of frustration and delays. More than 10 million claims shook the archaic state systems only in the last two weeks of March. From the end of July, the latest available data, about 5 million to 8 million employees is still awaiting a decision on whether they are eligible for unemployment benefits, says Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow The Foundation of the Century.
Says Stettner CNBC Do it that California’s decision to temporarily suspend new applications in order to work effectively through the delay was “well thought out.”
“The fraud concern is valid,” says Stettner. “What I appreciate is honesty. With such a long delay, you can’t just be like, ‘We’re working on that.’ “You need to make a plan to reduce delays based on the resources you have and the understanding of the time it will really take to get through the cases.”
For some residents who have already spent seven months without the benefits they are entitled to, a target date of January 2021 will not help them pay their bills now. The benchmark “sounds awful,” says Stettner. “It’s awesome, but it’s better than uncertainty.”
Stettner says he hopes other states can make huge efforts to invest in staff and technology to improve their unemployment systems now. The federal government has withdrawal from state unemployment programs for years, especially in the decade since the Great Depression, the last time a wave of people relied on help without work.
Underfunding in state unemployment programs generally disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable workers. Despite federal efforts to increase eligibility and assistance to workers during the pandemic, exactly 13% of blacks receive unemployment benefits during the health crisis, compared to 24% of white workers, 22% of Hispanic workers and 18% of workers of other races.
“The federal government is just putting money into this problem,” Stettner said, adding that even when funding is provided, most fraud prevention measures adopted at the expense of the user-friendly registration process for applicants. In addition, without funding for the recruitment and training of new members of the State Department of Labor, many could not bring in sufficiently new employees when retired experienced.
The updated law HEROES introduced by the House of Representatives this week has $ 925 million to help states meet their unemployment insurance claims. The bill also restores the $ 600 weekly improvement, extends the PUA and provides another 13-week extension to the one-person benefits window by 2021. White House officials and negotiators resumed discussions this week on how to proceed with the next Quranic stimulus package.
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