Almost 4.1 million may have to repay California unemployment agency

2.4 million people might have been ineligible for benefits at all

CALIFORNIA: As California’s unemployment agency stopped upholding some eligibility rules, a large number of people may need to reimburse some or all of the unemployment benefits they got during the coronavirus pandemic according to an audit released Tuesday. It could process claims quicker.

As millions of people filed petitions for unemployment benefits during various government-ordered business closures, state officials decided to stop doing some of the time-consuming work necessary to guarantee those who applied for benefits were eligible to get them.

In total, 2.4 million people might have been ineligible for benefits at all and 1.7 million might have been overpaid. It’s likely some people fall into both categories.

State Auditor Elaine Howle said Tuesday that California has “no clear plan” to address the backlog, saying it “represents a workload never before seen by the department.”

The audit said, “That could have significant consequences for claimants.”

They need to check in with the unemployment agency every other week to certify they are still eligible when people start getting benefits. The audit found that the agency had paid people without requiring those certifications for about eight weeks last spring which resulted in almost 1.7 million people getting $5.5 billion in benefits.

The agency also stopped enforcing some rules from March to December, that would have made people unqualified for benefits

California Labor Secretary Julie Su estimated the state has paid $11.4 billion in fraudulent claims during the pandemic that represents 10% of the more than $114 billion in benefits paid from March. Employment Development Department spokeswoman Loree Levy said fraud is not associated with the eligibility issues identified in the audit.

Written by Riley Kaplan

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