Whew! Roommates during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of people have found creative ways to receive income. Some launched new businesses, some hustled, and others turned to fraud to maintain their livelihood and flex online. While several states have been affected by fraudulent unemployment claims and dishing out big bucks to individuals claiming they were in need, it seems like the state of California was hit hard.
According to the LA Times, CA has given away at least $20 billion to criminals in the form of fraudulent unemployment benefits, state officials said yesterday. Although the number confirmed a smaller amount than initially estimated, it still accounts for more than 11% of all benefits paid since the start of the pandemic last year.
CA State officials blamed nearly all of the fraud on an expansion of unemployment benefits by Congress. The expansion let self-employed individuals receive weekly checks from the government with few safeguards preventing people who were not eligible.
Fraud became so widespread in CA that state officials approved at least $810 million in benefits in the names of people in prison. Dozens of which were infamous killers sitting on death row. State officials even sent $21,000 in benefits to an address in Roseville under the name and Social Security number of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). This allowed someone to access $2 million in total fraudulent payments.
CA isn’t the one state dealing with the outcome of fraud. Unfortunately, Unemployment agencies across the country approved at least $87 billion in fraudulent payments by several states, according to a June report from the inspector general’s office at the U.S. Department of Labor.
In Arizona alone, state officials said fraudsters pocketed nearly 30% of all its unemployment benefit payments. Roomies, y’all know CA Governor Gavin Newsom doesn’t play when it comes to his state. The report states Gov. Newsom’s administration has sought to assure state lawmakers that the fraud pipeline in California has been closed. Employment Development Department (EDD) Director Rita Saenz said the state implemented new identity verification software and other preventative measures, which helped stop an estimated $120 billion in fraud attempts.
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