California Unemployment: EDD's out-of-date website causes increased benefit delays and identity theft risks

Out of work Californians are finding the process of getting unemployment benefits further delayed because EDD requires they mail or fax sensitive documents.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020
EDD website causes increased benefit delays, identity theft risks
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"Who owns a fax machine anymore?" Unemployed Californians are finding the process of getting unemployment benefits further delayed by EDD's out-of-date website. Instead of allowing secure uploads, EDD is requiring they mail or fax sensitive documents.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- 7 On Your Side is examining the problems with Californians unable to access their unemployment benefits. There are many issues, and today we're focusing on what can happen if the EDD isn't sure you are who you say you are.

We of course want the EDD to make sure the money isn't wasted or sent to conmen. But the process in place for checking IDs is out of step with today's world.

Don Longanecker was born and raised in Oakland, working at the same company in town for 42 years. When the pandemic shut down Oakland, his employer closed down for good.

"I'm sitting on the Columbia River, salmon fishing," he tells me from his boat.

Don is multitasking now: fishing, looking for work and filing for unemployment benefits.

UNEMPLOYMENT IN CA: EDD complaints still pouring in as $600 benefit ends this week

Complaints about EDD's response to those in desperate need of unemployment benefits continue to pour in. EDD says that it's hired new workers to handle the load -- but some claim these new employees aren't able to help at all.

"I put in for my first two weeks and it said pending, then two weeks later I put it in again, still pending," he told me. "Then I received a letter from unemployment that said they wanted proof, verification of ID, proof of who I was."

He sent in copies of his driver's license, birth certificate and passport... then never heard back. He talked with an EDD representative, who had no information.

"I went ahead and did everything again," he said. He just wanted to be sure the information was with the EDD. "I actually took a picture of myself holding their letter and my passport and sent it again certified mail."

The whole time he was thinking the process seemed odd.

"You would think nowadays they would have email where you could actually scan it and send it to them. I thought it was ridiculous that I had to send it snail mail like that," he tells me.

Laura Davis agrees, saying, "their system is ridiculous, this should all be digitized."

She was surprised when she was told to mail in her documents, too.

"I couldn't believe it. It was preposterous," she tells me. "My daughter is an adult, she lives with us, she also filed an unemployment claim. And they asked her to fax her document in, and we looked at each other like, who owns a fax machine anymore?"

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Sounds kind of funny, but it is so much more than that. Here's a staff attorney for Legal Aid at Work, Carole Vigne's take.

"To think that they would have to find a printer, they would have to find a fax machine, they would have to find an envelope, stamp -- these are actually big barriers to a lot of workers right now," said Vigne.

That is especially true for low-income workers and those with language barriers, but all workers who send in ID are placed in a potentially bad situation.

John Tirpak is executive director of the Unemployment Law Project in Washington state.

"It is very ironic that they are putting people at risk for identity theft," he says.

The details are different up in Seattle, but the issues are the same.

UNEMPLOYMENT IN CA: Woman gets EDD letters awarding, denying benefits in the same day

A Santa Clara woman didn't know which letter to believe when the California EDD sent her two on the same day: one seemly awarding unemployment benefits, and one denying her claim.

"When you have people send documents by unsecured email," he says, "that is a perfect target for someone who wants to claim identities."

The California EDD website is decades old, but it can be updated to allow uploads.

Recently when quizzed by ABC7's Kristin Sze, EDD spokesperson Loree Levy said the website could be updated to conform with the modern world.

"We have made a number of computer enhancements, and continue to do so, and one of them that we hope to have operational sometime this summer is the ability to upload documents. There is only so much we can add to the system at any one time with all the programming required, but this one is being taken care of and hopefully will be ready for launch sometime over the next several weeks," said Levy.

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Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.