HAYWARD, Calif. (KGO) -- As federal unemployment benefits ended for two million Californians this month, thousands still hadn't been paid for old claims.
The Employment Development Department has been slowly reducing the backlog, until this week when cases suddenly spiked.
The EDD has tried many ways to speed payments. Right now, the main holdup is the EDD trying to verify eligibility for tens of thousands of claims.
Many workers have to wait months for an interview and by that time, they've run out of money to live on.
Syonna Varguez of San Jose was approved for benefits in May, but by September, still no payments.
"They told me I have to wait five months. There's a five-month waiting period," she said.
The EDD let Jacob Wright of Santa Cruz's claim sit for so long, he got disqualified by mistake. "They just keep telling me to wait, wait, wait," he told 7 On Your Side.
It's even rougher for Michael Diaz of Hayward, a laid-off union carpenter. He was among the 1.4 million whose benefits were suddenly cut off last December. They had 10 days to prove their identity or lose benefits for good.
"I try to do everything to keep my head above water but I'm just sinking 'cause EDD's not taking care of me," he said.
"They sent me the ID verification paperwork. I filled it out completely," Diaz continued.
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He uploaded and mailed his driver's license, W2 form and layoff notice. but the EDD claimed he "failed to respond" so he was "not eligible," then locked him out of his account.
Diaz appealed, which took seven months. A judge finally ruled Mike did prove his identity after all, and was eligible all along.
Still, the EDD has not paid him anything.
He has no home, no car, no way to get to job sites.
"I'm a better person than what I've become, when you lose everything you had, that you work hard for, and it comes to this," Diaz said.
His case doesn't even count in EDD's statistics.
But this week the backlog of claims jumped from 177,000 to more than 190,000.
The EDD blames the short Labor Day work week, and more complex claims since federal benefits ended.
As for Diaz? The EDD admits it's taking longer than usual to respond to his victory in the appeal, saying: "We are very sorry about the delays encountered by Mr. Diaz."
For Diaz, it's a little too late. "I can't get back to the routine that I was before. It's totally just knocked me back."
The EDD said Diaz's case had a "rare issue" because of the delay in extending benefits into the new year.
But letting it go to appeal meant an eight month delay -- so far. That cost his home and car, all for ID he'd long since verified.
Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.
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