SACRAMENTO, CA – On the first day of the 2021-2022 Legislative Session, Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) introduced Assembly Bill (AB) 56, which will overhaul the Employment Development Department (EDD) to speed up and simplify unemployment insurance claims, protect Californians from identity theft, stop rampant fraud of the unemployment insurance system, and hold the department accountable if they do not deliver benefits in a timely manner.
“California families are suffering and need immediate relief from the EDD,” said Assemblymember Salas. “Common sense solutions are needed to resolve widespread issues and help working families put food on the table and make it through the current crisis. AB 56 will help protect taxpayers, create accountability, and move the state forward by reforming the EDD. We must ensure that California families are put first and receive the assistance they need during these tough times.”
AB 56 seeks to address the many issues plaguing the EDD that have negatively impacted working families throughout California. Among these issues, the EDD’s identity verification system faces delays while California still has a backlog of more than half a million unemployment insurance claims. For individuals who have received their benefits, tens-of-thousands have had their EDD debit cards mistakenly frozen by Bank of America and can no longer access their money. California is one of only 3 states in the U.S. that does not provide an option for the direct deposit of unemployment insurance benefits.
Additionally, the state also faces an uphill battle to curb fraudulent activities. According to reporting, the EDD “paid more than 35,000 claims under state prisoners’ names... [and] also paid more than $421,000 to 133 Death Row Inmates.” A report by the State Auditor also found that the EDD continues to put millions of Californians’ identities at risk, and has sent out more than 38 million pieces of mail with full Social Security Numbers.
AB 56 would fix these issues by requiring the EDD to implement changes to its identity verification system to make the process more efficient, create a plan to stop mailing full SSNs to individuals, and would provide Californians with the option to have their unemployment insurance benefits deposited directly into their bank accounts. Additionally, the bill would require the EDD to crosscheck the names of new claimants with the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to ensure that benefits are not sent to incarcerated individuals. Lastly, AB 56 would hold EDD accountable by instituting penalties if the department does not deliver assistance in a timely manner.
Assemblymember Salas represents part of the City of Bakersfield, the cities of Arvin, Hanford, Corcoran, Delano, Lemoore, McFarland, Shafter, Wasco, and the communities of Armona, Avenal, Buttonwillow, Home Garden, Kettleman City, Lamont, Lost Hills, Stratford and Weedpatch.