There's one particular roadblock that some are calling identity theft -- without the theft. Unemployed workers find out they are eligible for unemployment but EDD says first they must prove they are who they say they are. Another layer of bureaucracy that stops everything.
Cesar Ayala of Morgan Hill was a security officer at a retail store when the pandemic hit, the store closed, and Ayala was suddenly out of work.
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"I basically chased shoplifters for a living," he said. "I applied for unemployment on April 8."
The EDD did approve his benefits right away but oddly, it would not send him the money.
Instead, he got a letter saying he had to prove his identity first.
"The last time I checked, I was me," said Ayala.
Ayala quickly mailed the required forms: his W-2, driver's license, bank statement. But that was almost three months ago.
"I've been waiting ever since. I remember one day I called 76 times in one day and never got through," Ayala said.
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And he never did get paid.
Ayala says he is down to his last few dollars, homeless, living on a friend's couch.
"I'm in the process of packing up everything and putting it in storage. I have had to apply for social services, food donations," he said.
The same thing happened to Mario Gulinao of Hayward. He was laid off, and EDD refused to grant benefits until he could prove he's really Mario.
"I received a letter from them that benefits were zero dollars," Gulinao said.
"It's been more than two months, almost three months, and I basically depleted my life savings," he said.
Gulinao sent in all the required documents long ago, and never heard back from EDD. Now he says he is in danger of losing his home.
"We get people who call our office in tears because they don't know how they're going to pay rent or how they're gonna go shopping to put food on their table for their kids," State Senator Scott Weiner says.
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"They're in tears. Why are we doing this to people? This needs to get resolved and we need to get resolved immediately," he continued.
Wiener says EDD has made it too hard to claim benefits that are supposed to get everyone through this economic crisis.
"And real people are being harmed. Real people who are hanging on by their fingernails. They're hanging on by a thread. They're running out of money. They can't keep using their credit cards just to stay afloat and they're owed money," said Weiner.
EDD says it's overwhelmed with an unprecedented flood of insurance claims. As for Ayala and Gulinao, EDD is urging folks to be careful of how they fill out forms to avoid mistakes that may require ID verification -- a sure way to stall your benefits.
Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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