SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Families and a small-business economy ravaged by the coronavirus and a state agency torn by a related fraud that could exceed $2 billion are at the top of California lawmakers’ fix-it list as they return to the state Capitol.
They have already introduced numerous bills in response to the pandemic. They plan to convene Monday in Sacramento.
These bills range from extending protections for renters, to attempting to regain some decision-making authority that they had delegated to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
They pushed back their usual start by one week because of the coronavirus surge. Among their most urgent priorities, lawmakers are racing to extend eviction protections that otherwise will soon expire.
California's District 4 State Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama) is the Vice-Chair of the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Committee. He said on Friday that he wants the $15-$26 billion dollars in one-time unexpected revenue from the Department of Finance to be used on one-time expenses, encouraging support for those struggling with joblessness, those who own small businesses, and for supporting children's' needs.
Senator Nielsen said of the state's Employment Development Department (EDD), "EDD must be fixed to ensure that Californians receive the help they need."
CALIFORNIA FREEZES UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS DUE TO PRISON-RELATED EDD FRAUD
California froze 1.4 million unemployment claims during its recent efforts to fight fraud related to the coronavirus unemployment relief program.
The Los Angeles Times revealed there were 6,000 claims that were potentially fraudulent, many in the name of people incarcerated in California. At least 2,000 people with claims in California were found to be incarcerated in Florida's jails and prisons. The Times said EDD representatives acknowledged that roughly $400 million dollars were distributed by the EDD in the name of California prisoners.
STATE SENATOR NIELSEN PROVIDED HIS RESPONSE TO CONSTITUENT INQUIRIES
State legislators in Northern California have been contacted by a large number of citizens who are having difficulty straightening out their unemployment claims and receiving funds.
Senator Nielson said, "There needs to be an independent audit of the internal procedures that have caused this chaos."
"The solution has got to be within the organization and substantial changes must be made," he added.
Nielsen said the EDD has informed his office that those who have received notice that their claim was suspended for suspected fraud will receive a link to ID.me between January 6 and January 14, 2021. He said claimants will use the provided link to verify their identity in order to clear their claim.