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Many Unemployed Californians Could Have to Repay Part of Pandemic Benefits

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If you or someone you love is collecting unemployment, remind them that the deadline to submit 2019 income documents is December 11th.  Nearly a million Californians who received Pandemic Unemployment Assistance have been told they might have to repay some of their benefits if they can’t document the 2019 income they reported on their unemployment application.

On Nov. 21, the California Employment Development Department began sending notices to certain PUA recipients giving them 21 days to submit proof of their reported income. If they can’t provide proof of income, the notice said EDD will reduce their weekly PUA benefit to as low as $167 and require them to repay the difference between their “current weekly benefit and the decreased benefit amount, for each week you were paid.”

If you received a notice in the mail, or have a message from the EDD in your inbox asking you for more documentation, make sure to act before the end of December 10th.  If you did not receive notice via paper mail or in your inbox, then this does not apply to you.

EDD submit your documents page.

Earlier in November, some unemployment recipients were asked to retroactively ‘Certify for Past Unemployment Benefits’.  EDD’s message was explained like this, “Retroactive certification ensures your claim was accurate. If you received benefits you were not eligible for, we will send you a Notice of Overpayment for the amount you must repay.”

These measure come after an embarrassing amount of fraud was uncovered surround unemployment benefits in CA.  Bank of America said Monday it is “likely California paid at least $2 billion in fraudulent unemployment benefits,” offering a glimpse of the potential size of the problem that has plagued many states during this pandemic.

To put things in perspective, the $2 billion estimated fraud, is less than 2% of the $110 billion California has paid in unemployment benefits since March.  But the estimated fraud is still huge compared to other states.  Hundreds of thousands of edd debit cards are suspected of falling into the hands of fraudsters.  Last month, a group of local and federal prosecutors revealed the state had approved benefits for more than 30,000 prison inmates, including 133 on death row.

Many unemployed people will be able to prove their income to EDD, but some self-employed people are realizing they may have overstated their 2019 net income while applying for benefits this spring, because they misunderstood the instructions or because they were desperate and claimed more income than was real.

The PUA the minimum benefit was $167 a week. On May 20, it started to increase PUA payments automatically to anyone who reported 2019 net income of $17,369 or more, retroactively to the start of their claim. The more they earned, the higher the benefit, up to $450 a week for those who reported at least $46,696 in net income.

I spoke with an Californian this week who told me the process of submitting 2019 documents was surprisingly easy.  You have to upload documents like these directly to the EDD via the same site you certify for benefits:

Acceptable 2019 income documents may include:

Federal tax return (IRS Form 1040, Schedule C or F)
State tax return (CA Form 540)
Paycheck stubs
Payroll history
Bank receipts
Business records
Invoices and corresponding documents
Any other documents to prove your 2019 income


If you are collecting unemployment, and you received a notice in the mail, or have a message from the EDD in your inbox asking you for more documentation, make sure to act before the end of December 10th, (or whichever deadline they give you).  If you did not receive notice via paper mail or in your inbox, then this does not apply to you!

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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

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  1. barry umstead
    December 10, 2020 at 11:38 am

    The last line of your stories that starts, “If you are collecting unemployment…” makes it seem that everyone who is getting it needs to submit documents. That’s not how I read your story. It seems that EDD is notifying those who need to submit documentation. Can you clear that up, please? I’m getting unemployment but have not received any notice.

    • Alex Mak - Managing Editor
      December 10, 2020 at 11:54 am

      If you did not receive a notice in the mail, or have a message from the EDD in your inbox( digital) asking for more documentation, then this does not apply to you : )

  2. Robert 42
    December 11, 2020 at 7:13 am

    Frankly, I hope Gov. Newsom funds this investigative effort only to the point where the most egregious fraud is caught. The job here is not to make sure every penny went into the right hands, but that we got money into the hands of people who needed it, and not those who did not.