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State Suspends Unemployment Aid For Thousands Of Fraud Victims

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(Chava Sanchez/LAist)
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Thousands of out-of-work Californians have had their unemployent benefits frozen because they were victims of fraud, cutting off desperately needed help for people slammed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 693,000 people have had their accounts suspended as part of a fraud prevention effort by the Employment Development Department (EDD). In some cases, fraudsters were using their addresses to file bogus unemployment claims, and now the victims are scrambling to verify their identity with EDD so they can start receiving benefits again.

The state's approach to rooting out fraud "punishes first and asks for evidence later," said Daniela Urban, director of the Center for Workers' Rights in Sacramento.

She said EDD's actions go against the recommendations of a recent strike team report, which found the department focused too heavily on fraud at the expense of clearing a backlog that now stands at about 1.2 million claims.

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The EDD promises to quickly reestablish payments "for claimants verified to be legitimate and accounting will be done to clear them from any connection to a possible fraudulent claim initiated in their name or involving their address."

Many who were locked out of their accounts say EDD never told them how to fix the problem. We've got some answers.

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