Officials say California will not accept new unemployment claims for the next two weeks as the state works to prevent fraud and reduce a backlog as more than 2 million people are out of work statewide during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state announced the two-week pause on Saturday, calling it a “reset period that will help expedite new claimant payments, reduce fraud and tackle backlog issues moving forward.”
Nearly 600,000 Californians are part of a backlog where their unemployment claims have not been processed by the state’s Employment Development Department for more than 21 days.
The department has been hampered throughout the pandemic by outdated technology at a time when California is seeing an unprecedented wave of unemployment claims.
The pause came after a strike team established by Gov. Gavin Newsom to create a blueprint for improvements and to modernize technology systems at the EDD released its findings.
“We agree with the team’s recommendations and have already implemented some of them and are quickly adopting others to help eligible Californians receive the valuable financial support they need,” EDD director Sharon Hilliard said in a statement.
During the two week pause, the department will be implementing “ID.me,” a new identity verification tool to “fortify the application process against fraud” by requiring applicants to upload identifying documents and a selfie.
Officials say the new tool will stop scammers “much earlier than through today’s follow up process involving notices through the mail.”
To reduce the backlog, staff will be redirected to look at complex claims.
This reset will only impact Californians applying for benefits for the first time. During the two weeks, those trying to submit a new unemployment claim online will be redirected to a temporary webpage where they can enter their information to be called back to submit a claim when the system is ready, officials said.
Those with already established claims will still be able to use their UI Online account to manage existing claims during the two-week pause.