sunny.png
Monday July 26th, 2021 9:15AM

Fraud concerns over California's unemployment benefits

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Concerns are growing about possible widespread fraud in California’s unemployment system following numerous reports of people receiving unsolicited letters, some with debit cards, from the state's jobless agency, and a suspicious number of claims involving independent contractors.

The California Employment Development Department has paid a staggering $76.9 billion in unemployment benefits since the start of the pandemic, processing more than 11.9 million claims, most the result of Gov. Gavin Newsom's decision to shut down much of the economy to slow the spread of the disease.

The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that California had processed more than 405,000 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims last week, accounting for more than half of all such claims nationally. Congress authorized the program earlier this year to help people not normally eligible to receive unemployment benefits, including independent contractors.

Michael Bernick, former director of the Employment Development Department and now an attorney at the Duane Morris law firm, called that a “ridiculously high percentage.”

“This may be the potential fraud given the very, very outsized — ridiculously outsized — number of claims filed in California,” he said.

In recent weeks, several reports have emerged of people receiving dozens of letters from the Employment Development Department that include the personal information of others.

David Robertson said his son applied for unemployment benefits at the end of April. His son got a letter in August saying he was entitled to $167 per week, he said. But when they called the agency to ask more questions, they found that the contact information on his son's account had been changed and more than $14,000 in benefits had been issued to someone else.

“How did this happen? They can't answer any of these questions,” Robertson said during a news conference this week organized by Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno.

Amy Brooks said she was denied unemployment benefits months ago. But she has recently received 24 pieces of mail from the agency. The letters have her address but different names and Social Security numbers. At least three contained debit cards.

“There’s no way this is a clerical error,” said Brooks, who lives in Fresno. “How can my address be linked to all of these people?”

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday he is “concerned about fraud in this space.” He said the state is working with local and federal authorities.

“It is a top priority for all of us,” Newsom said.

Employment Development Department spokesperson Aubrey Henry said the agency is aware of the letters and is “developing methods to stop and prevent such claims from being paid."

“It’s extraordinarily unfortunate that fraudsters tend to become much more active during emergency situations like the current COVID situation,” Henry said.

California Auditor Elaine Howle last month said the Employment Development Department was at high risk for waste and fraud, citing the large number of claims that have overwhelmed the agency. In the state Legislature, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee on Thursday approved an emergency audit of the agency, including an analysis of the number and percentage of claims approved, denied, pending and backlogged.

“The auditor warned clearly for potential for waste fraud and abuse,” said Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Republican from Fresno. “We are now seeing what that waste, fraud and abuse looks like.”

Before this, the biggest concern about unemployment benefits in California was the backlog of more than 1 million people still waiting on benefits. Last month, the agency told lawmakers it is unable to answer 60% of the calls it receives for help, pledging to hire more than 3,000 people for its call center to keep up with unprecedented demand.

The agency has been under enormous pressure from lawmakers and the public to work through that backlog. But one of the reasons it takes a while to process claims is because the agency has to screen for fraud, Bernick said.

“That’s the trade off,” he said. “You can reduce certain procedural checks, but what you risk is a potential increase in fraud.”

  • Associated Categories: U.S. News, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Business, AP Business - Economy
© Copyright 2021 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Fraud concerns over California's unemployment benefits
Concerns are growing about possible fraud at California’s unemployment agency
9:33PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Nevada governor mulls church changes as court battle resumes
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak says he is pursuing the possibility of easing COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings as a rural church pushes forward with its legal effort to strike down the current 50-person cap as unconstitutional
8:37PM ( 1 hour ago )
Mayor suspends officers involved in man's suffocation death
Seven police officers involved in the suffocation death of Daniel Prude last spring in Rochester, New York, have been suspended by the city’s mayor, who said she was misled for months about the circumstances of the fatal encounter
8:23PM ( 1 hour ago )
U.S. News
Mets honor Seaver with salute, jersey and dirt-smudged knee
The New York Mets have paid tribute to Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver with a series of salutes
9:32PM ( 12 minutes ago )
The Latest: S Korea restrictions keep new cases under 200
The number of new confirmed coronavirus cases in South Korea has stayed below 200 for the second consecutive day amid toughened social distancing rules
9:24PM ( 20 minutes ago )
The Latest: Serena Williams set for Open match with Stephens
Serena Williams’ drive for her 24th major championship continued with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Margarita Gasparyan to advance to the third round of the U.S. Open
9:17PM ( 27 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
EPA chief pledges more cleanups, less focus on climate
Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler says a second Trump administration term would bring more focus on pollution cleanups and less on climate change
7:10PM ( 2 hours ago )
Trump suggests polling place double-check for mail-in voters
Election experts are taking issue with President Donald Trump's suggestion that people who vote early by mail should vote again at their polling place if their ballot hasn't been counted
7:01PM ( 2 hours ago )
US trade deficit surges in July to highest in 12 years
The U.S. trade deficit surged in July to $63.6 billion, the highest level in 12 years, as imports jumped by a record amount
5:46PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP National News
The Latest: Coronavirus cases rise above 4 million in Brazil
The number of confirmed cornavirus cases in Brazil has risen above 4 million
7:14PM ( 2 hours ago )
Trump threat to Democratic-led cities provokes outcry
The White House says President Donald Trump’s latest threat to cut federal dollars for certain big cities is aimed at spurring them to do more to quell violence, but local leaders are dismissing it as a political gimmick that's unlikely to stand up in court if implemented
6:32PM ( 3 hours ago )
The Latest: Tennessee governor won't commit to using vaccine
Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is declining to say whether he would be vaccinated against the coronavirus when a vaccine becomes available
6:26PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
Pelosi, Mnuchin agree on plan to avoid government shutdown
Democrats and the Trump administration are taking a key step toward avoiding a government shutdown in September
3:44PM ( 6 hours ago )
Stocks drop sharply as tech sector stumbles; Apple down 7.1%
Technology stocks took a tumble on Wall Street Thursday, giving back some of their spectacular gains over the past several months and dragging the rest of the market down with them
3:00PM ( 6 hours ago )
Ex-Ohio House speaker pleads not guilty to bribery scheme
The former speaker of the Ohio House has pleaded not guilty to a federal corruption charge stemming from an alleged bribery scheme
2:35PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
Nevada governor mulls church changes as court battle resumes
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak says he is pursuing the possibility of easing COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings as a rural church pushes forward with its legal effort to strike down the current 50-person cap as unconstitutional
8:37PM ( 1 hour ago )
Mayor suspends officers involved in man's suffocation death
Seven police officers involved in the suffocation death of Daniel Prude last spring in Rochester, New York, have been suspended by the city’s mayor, who said she was misled for months about the circumstances of the fatal encounter
8:23PM ( 1 hour ago )
Police use of spit hoods scrutinized after Black man's death
The suffocation of a Black man after police slipped a “spit hood” over his head has drawn new attention to the tactic and the frequent reliance on police to respond to mental health emergencies
6:59PM ( 2 hours ago )
Wyoming lauds US carbon capture study; utility skeptical
Wyoming’s governor is promoting a Trump administration study that says capturing carbon dioxide emitted by four coal-fired power plants would be an economical way to curtail the pollution
6:58PM ( 2 hours ago )
Britney Spears shows love for #FreeBritney in court filing
Britney Spears is welcoming public scrutiny of the court conservatorship that has allowed her father to control her life and money for 12 years
6:24PM ( 3 hours ago )