California Governor Gavin Newsom (Gavin Newsom) announced on Thursday that there will be major changes in the state’s way of paying unemployment benefits, which could cost up to 100,000 people without assistance for weeks or months. Distribute relief funds.
Obtaining unemployment benefits is a two-step process. First, state officials must decide whether people are eligible. If it is, the state starts to pay them. But these people must contact the state government every two weeks to confirm that they are still eligible to continue receiving payments.
Sometimes, state officials must investigate the eligibility of residents after they receive payment. When this happens, the state will stop paying them until the investigation is completed. Before the pandemic, these investigations usually did not take long. But during the pandemic, the state was flooded with millions of claims, causing long delays.
The Employment Development Department announced on Thursday that it will continue to pay individuals unemployment benefits even if they are investigating their eligibility. This change is part of the litigation settlement between the state and the advocacy organization Workers’ Rights Center.
This change only applies to people who have obtained benefits certification and have received at least one week of salary in the past. The organization’s executive director Daniela Urban said this could affect up to 100,000 people.
“This is a monumental change by EDD that will allow more claimants to be paid on time,” she said.
During the pandemic, unemployment benefits across the country soared, causing delays in many states. Since then, the number of claims has slowed, but more than 3 million people in California still receive some form of unemployment benefits. Throughout the pandemic, the state has been lagging behind.
For Newsom, this change is not without risks. Newsom faces a recall election in September. The governor has come under fire for failing to prevent the payment of billions of dollars in fraudulent benefits to prisoners and others who are not eligible for benefits. But he also faces complaints, saying that more and more people have legitimate claims and that they are unable to collect payments due to the complex bureaucracy being flooded by the pandemic.
This action may cause the state to pay people who do not qualify. The Employment Development Department stated in a press release that people who are not eligible for benefits may need to be repaid at some point. However, if the individual claims financial difficulties and the overpayment is not the result of fraud, the refund can be exempted.
Since March 2020, more than 23 million people in California have applied for unemployment benefits, and the state has paid $160 billion in benefits. At the same time, more than 226,000 people are still waiting for the state to resolve their claims and pay.
Among them is Abdulkarim Adam, 57, who lost his job as a bus driver in a private company during the pandemic. He said that the state stopped paying him unemployment benefits in March and never told him why.
Adam had to borrow money from his friends and moved in with his children while waiting. He said he called the state government every day, but couldn’t get through. He later received a text message from the agency asking for feedback on their customer service, which surprised him.
Adam said he responded with a pleasing message, hoping that this will prompt the agency to pay him faster. When this didn’t work, he later sent an angry message, comparing the institution to the autocratic dictatorship of North Korea.
On Thursday, when he finally learned of the change in national policy, he breathed a sigh of relief and hoped that this would allow him to get the money faster. The report is posted on the department’s website. The department stated that it received 478,749 calls during this period.
Urban said that many of the calls were made by people like Adam, who wanted to know why their benefits would be cut off. He said that since they know their welfare will not be interrupted, then these people may call less.