Widower unlocks late wife's EDD benefits with help from 7 On Your Side

ByRandall Yip KGO logo
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Widower unlocks late wife's EDD benefits with help from ABC7
Odie Cruz's wife died in February and left behind a debit card loaded with disability benefits. Unlocking those benefits proved difficult.

FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- When Odie Cruz's wife of 41 years died in February, she left behind a debit card loaded with $59,000 in disability benefits. Unlocking those benefits from an EDD debit card proved difficult as the pandemic has stretched the state agency to a breaking point.

Odie shows off a photo of his late wife Herminia. The devoted husband places fresh flowers beside her photo every week.

Her death following a heart ailment is difficult for him to talk about.

VIDEO: California Unemployment: Lawmakers call for accountability for EDD's 'unacceptable' performance

As a result of lawmakers' calls for action, EDD has said it would give priority to those who have been waiting for benefits the longest.

"So that was very painful. To be honest with you, I still cry every day," he said.

Herminia left her job as a registered nurse following a heart attack just two years ago. She was on disability ever since.

Those benefits were loaded onto a debit card administered by Bank of America and EDD.

"I'm an old guy. I'm old school. I don't know how to transfer her funds into our joint savings and checking account, which we use for everything," Odie said.

After Herminia died, Bank of America notified Odie that his wife's account had been frozen.

VIDEO: Unemployment in CA: EDD spokesperson talks future of extra $600 pandemic payment, wait times

As California begins to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the state's Employment Development Department is seeing no shortage of claims.

To get those funds, the bank told him to submit documents, and then weeks later asked him to contact EDD.

"Oh my God, EDD? I think that was in mid-March. That was the time when millions of people were filing for unemployment benefits," said Odie.

Odie has fond memories of his wife's piano concerts. When he didn't hear anything from the state, he remembered something his wife told him.

"She's always been telling me if you have any consumer problems, call 7 on Your Side," recalled Odie.

He did. We reached out to Bank of America.

It tells us: "We need to receive EDD approval before releasing money to an estate. As soon as we receive required documentation, we'll work as quickly as possible and will send to the EDD for review and approval."

RELATED: Woman gets EDD letters awarding, denying benefits in the same day

Some 10 days later, Odie received a check in the mail for $59,000.

"My wife would be proud of me. I contacted 7 On Your Side," Odie told us joyously.

He plans to put the money towards his retirement, which he hopes will be very soon.

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