California · COVID-19

$42mil in unemployment payments went to out-of-state felons, report says

More than $40 million in California funding intended to help people left jobless by the coronavirus pandemic probably went to inmates in out-of-state jails and prisons, it was reported Tuesday.

The state has acknowledged that its Employment Development Department was bilked out of hundreds of millions of dollars in COVID-19 unemployment funds that went to fraudsters, including some in the name of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D–Calif.).

But a December analysis commissioned by the state’s EDD found that the department approved more than 6,000 claims totaling more than $42 million involving people who probably were incarcerated out of state, including at least 2,000 Florida county jail and state prison inmates that included a man serving time for second-degree murder who received $10,800 in payments from California, the Los Angeles Times reported after reviewing the analysis.

California, the nation’s most populous state, has processed more than 16 million unemployment benefits since March, a byproduct of the pandemic that prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to order businesses to close. The Employment Development Department has struggled to keep up with the demand, facing intense pressure to work through a backlog that at one time numbered more than 1.6 million people.

But the agency’s haste to approve claims, coupled with expanded benefits Congress approved with few safeguards, has made it much easier for criminals to game the system.

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The San Joaquin Valley Sun
Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.