Sacramento, California – California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced a major change in the way the state pays unemployment benefits. This can result in canceled payments for up to 100,000 people who have gone weeks or months without assistance.

Obtaining unemployment benefits is a two-step process. First, state officials must decide whether people are eligible. If so, the state will start paying them. However, these people must contact the state every two weeks to ensure that they are still eligible for payment.

From time to time, state officials must investigate the eligibility of residents after they have been paid. When this happens, the state will stop paying them until the investigation is complete. Before the pandemic, these investigations usually didn’t take very long. But during the pandemic, the state was overwhelmed with millions of claims that caused long delays.

The Employment Development Ministry announced Thursday that it will continue to pay unemployment benefits to people, even while they investigate their eligibility. The change is part of a dispute settlement between the state and its advocacy group, the Center for Workers’ Rights.

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This change only applies to those who have been certified for benefits and have already received payments for at least a week in the past. Daniela Urban, the group’s general secretary, said it could affect up to 100,000 people.

“This is a monumental change on EDD’s part, which will allow more claimants to be paid on time,” she said.

Unemployment benefits increased across the country during the pandemic, creating an untreated portion in many states. Although billing has slowed since then, more than 3 million people in California still receive some form of unemployment benefit. The state has had a persistent backlog throughout the pandemic.

The change is not without risk for Newsom, which faces a recall election in September. The governor has been severely criticized for not being able to stop paying billions of dollars in fraudulent benefits to prisoners and others who are not eligible to receive them. But it also faces complaints about the growing untreated part of people with legitimate claims who could not be paid due to the complex bureaucracy overwhelmed by the pandemic.

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“There is a permanent trade-off between prompt payment of unemployment benefits and fraud prevention protocols,” said Michael Bernick, former director of employment development who is now a lawyer at Duane Morris LLP. “The current behavior of paying open, pre-validated invoices appears to reduce the risk of fraud while reducing the backlog. “

This action could allow the State to remunerate unqualified people. In a press release, the Employment Development Department said those who receive benefits while ineligible may have to repay them at some point. However, if people claim to be in financial difficulty and the overpayment is not the result of fraud, the refund may be waived.

Republican Representative Jim Patterson of Fresno said the state’s action was a “surprising endorsement that it cannot carry out its core mission” of paying legitimate claims while stamping out fraud.

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“Now they will also run the risk of paying crooks to clear their huge backlog,” Patterson said.

As of March 2020, more than 23 million people in California have applied for unemployment benefits, and the state has paid out $ 160 billion in benefits. Meanwhile, more than 226,000 people are still waiting for the state to resolve their claims and pay them.

Among them is Abdul Karim Adam, 57, who lost his job as a private sector bus driver in a pandemic. He said the state stopped paying him unemployment benefits in March and never explained why.

Adam had to borrow money from a friend and move in with his sons while he waited. He called the state every day but said he couldn’t get through. He was then surprised to receive a text from the agency asking for customer service feedback.

Adam said he responded with a compliment message, hoping it would prompt the agency to pay him earlier. When that didn’t work, he then sent an angry message comparing the agency to North Korea’s authoritarian dictatorship.

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He was relieved to finally hear the state’s policy changes on Thursday, hoping he would receive his money sooner.

“It will alleviate a lot of financial hardship and improve our lives,” he said.

According to a report posted on the Department of Employment Development website, the Department of Employment Development received more than 5.8 million calls from 421,005 unique callers in the last two weeks of June. The ministry said it responded to 478,749 calls during this period.

Urban said many of these phones came from people like Adam who wondered why their interests had been shut down. She said fewer of those people would likely call because they knew their interests would not be hampered.

“When looking for a post-pandemic job, I think the applicant will be more confident in relying on these unemployment benefits while having them,” she said. Said.

Copyright 2021 AP communication. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


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