09.10.21 California lawmakers send governor sweeping legislation to change unemployment system

Excerpted from LA Times

By Patrick McGreevy

Alarmed by more than a year of dysfunction and fraud in California’s unemployment benefits system, state lawmakers have sent the governor a raft of bills aimed at fixing the agency that stumbled in helping those left jobless by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Another bill on the way to the governor would tackle fraud that has involved the EDD’s approval of tens of thousands of claims filed in the names of prison inmates, including some on death row.

AB 110 would require the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to provide the EDD with the names and Social Security numbers of inmates so they can be cross-checked against claims filed for unemployment benefits.

Until the prison fraud was detected last summer, the state prison agency told EDD it could not legally share personal information of inmates because of privacy laws.

However, federal prosecutors obtained a temporary court order allowing such information to be shared.

EDD estimated that it paid roughly $810 million in benefits between January and November 2020 to 45,000 claimants with information that matched incarcerated individuals, according to Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), author of AB 110.

Her legislation requires the prison agency to share information and requires the EDD to create an automated system to receive and cross-check inmate data.

California is late to adopt the safeguard. Thirty-five other states were cross-checking prison inmate information against unemployment claims before the pandemic.

“The government must do a better job as custodian of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars,” Petrie-Norris said. “AB 110 will enable EDD to implement basic business processes so that unemployment funds go to those who desperately need them, not to fraudsters trying to make an extra buck.”