Suspected Unemployment Insurance fraud and identity theft information

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) has provided guidance regarding reporting fraud or identity theft when it is suspected that someone else used their information to collect Unemployment Insurance benefits.  In cases where applicants or recipients state that Unemployment Insurance claims have been filed using personal identifying information without their knowledge or consent, counties should help households to report suspected Unemployment Insurance fraud and identity theft.  CDSS has provided a notice to inform clients of resources for reporting suspected identity theft or benefits fraud

In cases of identity theft, counties cannot require any proof such as a police report or documents from the Employment Development Department.  A signed affidavit is acceptable verification for resolving reporting discrepancies.  (ACWDL, January 29, 2021.)

COVID-19 Continued Assistance Act Unemployment Insurance Provisions

The United States Department of Labor has issued instructions regarding the Unemployment Insurance provisions of the Continued Assistance Act 2021.  Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits to independent contractors and self-employed persons who are unable to work because of COVID-19, is extended to the weeks of unemployment ending on or before March 14, 2021.  Individuals receiving PUA as of the end of the program who have not yet exhausted their PUA may continue to collect PUA for any week they have entitlement until the week of April 5, 2021.  The maximum number of weeks of PUA is increased from 39 weeks to 50 weeks.  The number of weeks available continues to be reduced by any weeks of unemployment insurance or extended benefits received.

States have been given the authority to waive PUA and LWA overpayments when the individual is not at fault and repayment would be contrary to equity and good conscience.

An individual must have exhausted all entitlement to unemployment insurance, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and extended benefits before filing for PUA.  However, the Continued Assistance Act provides a hold harmless provision for an individual who previously exhausted PUA but became eligible for additional amounts of PEUC beginning on or after December 27, 2020.  States may continue paying PUA to an individual currently receiving PUA who is newly eligible to receive PEUC because of the additional weeks of PEUC.  States have four weeks to implement the additional amounts of PEUC and move an individual from PUA to PEUC.

Individuals filing for PUA must have their claim backdated to the first week during the Pandemic Assistance Period that the individual was unemployed, partially unemployed, or unable or unavailable to work because of COVID-19.

Any individual who receives PUA after December 27, 2020 must provide documentation substantiating employment or self-employment, or the planned beginning of employment or self-employment.  For persons applying on or after January 31, 2021 are required to provide documentation within 21 days of applying or the date the individual is directed to submit the documentation by the State Agency, whichever is later.  Individuals applying before January 31, 2021 and receiving a payment after December 27, 2020 are required to provide documentation within 90 days of applying or the date the individual is directed to submit the documentation by the State Agency, whichever is later.

States must have a system of identity verification for PUA.

Pandemic Unemployment Compensation is reauthorized for $300 per week in supplemental benefits for weeks of unemployment beginning after December 26, 2020 and ending on or before March 14, 2021.

States have the option to establish a Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation.  If enacted, this program provides an additional $100 additional payment per week for persons who received at least $5,000 in self-employment income in the most recent taxable year, who are receiving another unemployment insurance benefit except for PUC, and who submit documentation of their self-employment income. PEUC is extended to weeks of unemployment ending on or before March 14, 2021. Individuals receiving PEUC as of the end of the program who have not yet exhausted their PEUC may continue to collect PEUC for any week they have entitlement until the week of April 5, 2021.  The maximum amount of PEUC is increased from 13 times the individual’s average earnings to 24 times the individual’s average earnings.

States can allow continued PEUC when an individual qualifies for regular unemployment insurance and regular unemployment insurance is at least $25 less than PEUC.  If an individual previously exhausted PEUC and began receiving extended benefits, they must exhaust extended benefits before being eligible for PEUC.  If permitted by state law, if the state remains in an extended benefit period when an individual exhausts PEUC, the individual may still be eligible for extended benefits.

States must have a method to address when an individual refuses to return to work or accept an offer of suitable work without good cause.  States must provide a reporting method for employers to notify the state agency when an individual refuses an offer of employment.  States must notify claimants who refuse to work or to accept an offer of suitable work without good cause including instructions for contesting a denial based on a report of refusal to accept suitable work and exceptions to the rule.  A state may exercise temporary emergency flexibility in its application of good cause.  (UIPL 9-21, December 30, 2020.)

COVID-19 EDD Reset

The Employment Development Department (EDD) has is doing a two week reset period starting September 19. 2020 to help expedite new claimant payments, reduce fraud and tackle backlog issues.  The reset period is in response to the EDD Strike Team report. The Strike Team found that there are 591,016 backlogged initial claims, and over a million claims where claimants received payments and then payments stopped.

During the two week reset period, people attempting to apply for unemployment insurance for the first time will be directed to a temporary webpage where they can submit information so EDD can invite them back to EDD Online when it is ready.  New claims will be backdated to cover the reset period.  Claimants will be able to certify for benefits more quickly so that eligible claimants will get their first payment within 21 days. People who have existing claims will still be able to use UI Online to manage their claim.

During the reset period, EDD will implement a new identity verification tool called  People will be required to upload identifying identification documents along with along with a self-photo that EDD will validate. In addition, the most experienced EDD staff will redirected to work through the oldest and most complicated cases. Staff will also be redirected to process mail and email, and will call claimants to request additional information.

EDD will also expand the capability of the document upload feature for mobile devices, and will allow for providing wage information and filing military and federal employee claims online.  (EDD News Release 20-49, September 19, 2020.)

COVID-19 Information about Lost Wage Assistance, change to certification form and fraud changes

The Employment Development Department (EDD) has issued information about Lost Wage Assistance (LWA), change to certification form and fraud reporting.  LWA is the temporary $300 per week benefit pursuant to presidential executive order.  EDD is paying LWA benefits based on the order in which EDD received certification forms for Unemployment Insurance or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for the three week period July 26 to August 15.  People who have certified for those weeks that their full or partial unemployment is because of COVID-19 will receive LWA payments first.  Claimants must also have a weekly benefit award of at least $100 per week to be eligible for LWA.

Claimants who submitted their certification for all three of those weeks at the same time will receive one lump sum check of $900.  Claimants who did not submit their certification for all three of those weeks at the same time will have their payments split in two depending on when certifications for those three weeks was submitted.

Starting September 15, EDD will start accepting self-attestations for claimants who had not yet verified that their full or partial unemployment was because of COVID-19 (phase 2).  EDD will be sending email, texts or mailed notices advising claimants to complete the self-attestation online through their UI Online account or to mail a paper form.

After phase 1 and phase 2 payments are made, EDD will distribute two more weeks of LWA payments.  More information will be coming about when to expect these additional two weeks of benefits.  California has requested a 6th week of LWA benefits contingent on availability of federal funds.  EDD will issue additional information if this is approved.

EDD has issued a new certification form for people receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).  The new form requires PUA recipients to attest each week that they are unemployed as a direct result of COVID-19.

EDD will no longer automatically backdate new PUA claims because of fraud concerns.  To backdate a PUA claim, claimants can submit an online inquiry through AskEDD, select Unemployment Insurance, the claims question subcategory, and then the topic backdate the effective date of my claim due to COVID-19.  Claimants can also speak to a representative by calling 833-978-2511 or other numbers listed on the Contact EDD page.

People who are concerned that fraud is occurring on their EDD account can send any fraudulent documents to EDD investigators at P.O. Box 826880, MIC 43, Sacramento, CA 94280-0225.  (EDD News Release 20-46, September 10, 2020.)

COVID-19 PUA implementation and stimulus payments for undocumented persons

Governor Newsom has issued an Executive Order and press release regarding implementation of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and state stimulus payment for undocumented workers.  PUA will provide benefits for persons ineligible for regular unemployment insurance, including independent contractors, persons who are self-employed, gig workers, and persons who do not have a sufficient employment history to be eligible for regular Unemployment Insurnace, who are unemployed or partially unemployed because of COVID-19.  The PUA program will begin in California on April 28, 2020.  Benefits will be issued within 24-48 hours.

The Employment Development Department (EDD) will launch a new call center that will be open 7 days per week from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.  EDD will also expedite access to the Work Share program to avert layoffs.

Governor Newsom also announced state funded stimulus payments for undocumented persons in California of $500 per person and a maximum $1,000 per household beginning in May. These funds will be disbersed through regional nonprofit organizations.

Governor Newsom also reiterated that COVID-19 testing, evaluation and treatment is considered emergency services under Medi-Cal, regardless of where they are received.  This means all Medi-Cal beneficiaries can receive COVID-19 treatment regardless of documentation status.     (Executive Order N-50-20 and Press Release, April 15, 2020.)

COVID-19 federal instructions for PEUC

The United States Department of Labor has issued instructions regarding the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program.  PEUC provides up to 13 weeks of benefits for individuals who 1) have exhausted all rights to regular unemployment insurance under state or federal law for a benefit year that ended on or after July 1, 2019; 2) have no right to regular unemployment insurance for a week under any other state or federal unemployment insurance law, or to compensation under any other federal law; 3) are not receiving Canadian unemployment insurance; and 4) are able to work, available to work, and actively seeking work recognizing that states must provide flexibility if people are unable to search for work because of COVID-19.

An individual has exhausted regular unemployment insurance benefits when no payment of regular unemployment insurance may be made under state law because they have received all available benefits based on employment or wages during the base period, or the right to benefits has terminated because of the expiration of the benefit year for which rights existed.

An individual has no longer exhausted regular unemployment insurance when they can establish a valid new benefit year.  At each quarter change, states must check if the individual has earned enough wages establish a new benefit year in the State, establish a new benefit year in any other state, or establish a new benefit year if wages from one or more states are combined.  When the claimant qualifies for a new claim, the PEUC claim must stop.  If the individual remains unemployed and otherwise eligible, and has not used all of their 13 weeks of benefits, the PEUC claim can continue after the second regular claim is exhausted.

Benefits payable under PEUC are the same amount as a regular unemployment insurance claim.

The first possible week for which PEUC may be paid is the week of April 4, 2020.  PUEC is not payable for any week ending after December 31, 2020.

States must identify people potentially eligible for PEUC and give them written notice of their potential eligibility.  This includes people who have established a claim with a benefit year ending after July 1, 2019 and who have exhausted their claim or their benefit year has expired.

PEUC is payable in the same manner and amount to individuals filing interstate claims as for intrastate claims.  (Unemployment Insurance Program Letter No. 17-20, April 10, 2020.)