Specifically, the new unemployment payment policy will affect all current pending or on-hold payments where there had been at least one previous payment but then was placed into a pending status. Under the new policy, up to 100,000 Californians waiting on payments will now be tentatively cleared to start being paid as soon as today and over the next few weeks.
The EDD added that unemployment benefit claimants who are found to not be eligible will likely be required to pay back the amount in full, but that there will be exceptions in place for reasons such as financial hardship.
“We know many claimants who cleared fraud filters and verified identity have been waiting too long for payment,” said EDD Director Rita Saenz on Thursday. “In response, we are launching a new program that will help many Californians get benefits faster.”
The EDD has had a significant backlog of unemployment claims since the pandemic started in March 2020. While the Department did eventually institute changes and updates, as well as hire new staff, the number of backlogged claims was over 1 million until November 2020, with number going down significantly in subsequent months. However, the total number of backlogged claims has remained in the six-figure range, with the EDD missing their original June target to get through all remaining claims.
Calls to the EDD, many over unemployment claims being halted, have also remained high. During the later half of June, the EDD received nearly 5.9 million calls from over 420,000 unique callers, highlighting that while the EDD has made significant changes since last year, unemployment payment issues have persisted.
EDD unemployment policy changed due to recent lawsuit
The change by the EDD was spurred by a recent lawsuit with the Center for Workers’ Rights that included the new claimant payment policy as part of its settlement.
“So what EDD is doing is that instead of waiting to pay benefits while they look into a continued eligibility issue, they will actually be paying the claimants while they investigate these issues,” said Center for Workers’ Rights executive director Daniela Urban on Thursday.
“Once EDD has identified that there’s an eligibility issue, before this week, what EDD did is issue a full stop payment on claiming accounts. So they couldn’t receive benefits for any weeks going forward, regardless of whether they had eligibility issues for the future weeks. And that process is what’s stopping. So, that there’s no longer that stop payment when there’s an eligibility issue. If EDD cannot make a determination by the end of the week, following the week that they find the eligibility issue, EDD will make those payments while they continue to investigate.”
Others pointed out that the new policy may also attract fraudsters looking for payments that would start after a two week delay.
“Honestly, this may only attract more to try and defraud the EDD,” explained former police detective Archie Hill to the Globe on Friday. “They always come out of the woodwork once a big change is announced, because now they know the new layout of the field and know to look for ways past that.”
The first backlogged payments are expected to go out today, with the rest to follow in the coming weeks.
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