OAKLAND, California – Millions of Californians have depended on an extra $ 300 a week for unemployment assistance, but it all ends when the last round of payments runs out next week. But those who are unemployed in the state will not be cut out completely.
The federal money is part of the Lost Wages Assistance Program distributed by the California Department of Employment Development (EDD) to help workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Much of that money should have been distributed weeks or months earlier, however, a huge backlog prevented it from getting to those who needed it.
“I feel like this whole thing is going to go on and off for the rest of the year or so,”
That frustration has been mounting for months, and without a new deal for a COVID-19 aid package in Washington DC, the extra federal money is gone.
It is particularly difficult for gig workers, independent contractors, and self-employed workers.
But attorney and former director of California’s Employment Development Department, Michael Bernick, said those who are unemployed in the state shouldn’t panic.
“People are not going to lose their unemployment insurance,” he said. “If there is any good news it is that state unemployment continues and has now been extended.”
Although the extra $ 300 bonus is not an option, for unemployed Californians who have applied for or are receiving regular unemployment insurance, the benefits have been extended to 59 weeks of pay. An extension of 46 weeks has been foreseen for pandemic unemployment insurance.
However, the main problem is the backlog of applications. In total, the EDD estimates that 1.5 million requests are still on file and may not be completely canceled until at least January.
“This could lead anyone to commit suicide,” said jewelry designer Li Li Clever. “You just feel hopeless and helpless and like you don’t have control over your life.”
Part of the problem at the EDD was the scammers who filed false applications and augmented the already blocked and outdated state system. In an effort to address rampant delays and fraud, EDD has taken the past two weeks to restore and implement the new technology.
“EDD has a mandate to prevent fraud, but part of that, like many other public policies, is a balance,” Bernick said. “These anti-fraud measures slow down the processing of complaints or add an extra layer of verification.”
This week the state launched a new identity verification tool in hopes of providing increased security, speeding up the complaint process from the start, and eliminating potential fraud.
The success of this enhanced verification remains to be seen, but it has had positive results in other states.
Experts recommend managing your account and updating information to increase the likelihood of quick payouts and benefits.
Since March, the state has processed 15 million compensation claims providing $ 98 billion in unemployment cash.
However, many are left waiting for help and assistance as they look for a new job.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Cleghorn said.
Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Write him to email@example.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @BrooksKTVU