10.06.21 New California laws aim to combat fraud in jobless benefits

By Adam Beam

Excerpted from the Fresno Bee

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed new laws Tuesday to tighten security in the state's unemployment system after his administration OK’d billions of dollars in fraudulent payments during the pandemic while legitimate claimants languished in a backlog awaiting approval.

In its rush to approve unemployment benefits during a pandemic shutdown that put millions of people out of work, state officials approved billions of dollars in the names of people in prison — including some on death row — who were ineligible to receive them.

Meanwhile, thousands of legitimate claimants waited months for benefits to be approved, often frustrated they could not reach someone at the Employment Development Department's overwhelmed call centers.

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“The government must do a better job as custodian of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars,” Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, a Democrat and author of the bill, said last month when the bill passed the state Senate. “Due to a loophole in the current system, hundreds of millions of dollars were lost."