The state agency that handles unemployment benefits pursued lowering costs and hindering fraud over making it easy for workers to access benefits, a new report found.
Calls to California’s Employment Development Department disability insurance call centers surged to 12 times their normal volume in late 2021 and early 2022 as the department dealt with fraud. Many went unanswered, leaving some Californians in the lurch for months.
California’s troubled unemployment benefits department will soon have its third director in the past two years.
California is asking some 1.4 million unemployment recipients to prove their eligibility months after receiving aid as part of a fraud recovery campaign. But some people say they’re caught in the Employment Development Department’s dragnet because they don’t have the documents to be cleared. Now, some risk having to pay back more than $30,000—or face collection.
“It hasn’t gone down significantly for a couple of months, even as we have created these jobs,” said Michael Bernick, an attorney with the Duane Morris law firm
The state announced Thursday it would keep paying people unemployment benefits even while their eligibility is being investigated in many cases.
Experts said the state’s falling unemployment rate is mostly because so many people have stopped looking for work.
Statewide, the unemployment rate improved to 9.3% in October from 11.1% in September.
The state’s unemployment rate increased 10.2 percentage points since March, the largest one month rise since 1976, when the state began using its current formula to measure job losses.