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It has been over two months since a Powerball ticket worth a record $2.04 billion was sold at a convenience store in Altadena and we still don’t know who the winner is. If you’ve been waiting on the edge of your seat to find out who the new multimillionaire is, you’ll likely still be waiting for some time.

Back in November, after 41 consecutive drawings without a jackpot winner (and a suspenseful drawing-night delay prompted by technical issues), a single Powerball ticket sold north of Pasadena matched all six winning numbers drawn on the morning of Election Day.

While the owner of Joe’s Service Center on W. Woodbury Road has already received his $1 million prize for selling the ticket, it’s unclear if the ticketholder has claimed their winnings.

Depending on the size of the prize, a California lottery winner has between 180 days and a year to claim their prize, according to the California Lottery. Jackpot winners have the latter.

That means the winner still has more than 290 days to claim their $2.04 billion prize (which has a cash value of $997.6 million).

Joe Chahayed
Business owner Joe Chahayed holds a check outside Joe’s Service Center in Altadena, northeast of Los Angeles Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. For selling the winning ticket, Joe’s Service Center will receive a maximum Powerball bonus of $1 million. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Even if the winner came forward today, it could still be some time before the winner is minted. It’s all due to the rigorous vetting process the California Lottery has, according to Carolyn Becker, deputy director of public affairs and communications for the agency.

Becker explains the process can take weeks or even months as lottery staff, which includes security and law enforcement officials, work to determine whether the claimant is, in fact, a winner and not a scammer before announcing the victory and granting the prize.

In October, for example, a lottery player filled out a last-minute claim for a $38 million SuperLotto Plus jackpot from an April 30 drawing that was set to expire. But, as of mid-January, a winner has yet to be named.

“We have a very thorough process internally, at least here in California, to vet big winners,” she tells Nexstar. “We don’t even call them winners until they’re cleared by that security review.”

The $2.04 billion Powerball ticket holder not only faces an intense vetting process but some tough, life-altering questions before they can pocket the funds. The biggest will likely be whether to take the lump sum payment of $997.6 million or the annuity option of 29 annual payments that increase by 5% each year.

While they may still be mulling their options, one thing they don’t have much say in is remaining anonymous. California law mandates that, whenever the winner comes forward, the California Lottery is required to publicize their full name. Total winnings, including “your gross and net installment payments,” are public record, the lottery says, and are subject to disclosure as well.

If the winner does not claim their prize money before the deadline, participating lotteries would ultimately receive the funds their jurisdictions contributed, according to Powerball. That money would then be distributed according to that jurisdiction’s laws to other lottery games, a general fund, or wherever else is required.

In California, unclaimed lottery funds are transferred to the state’s public schools. Schools already received $156.3 million from ticket sales while the jackpot was building, making it the largest contribution to education generated from one rolling sequence in the California Lottery’s history.

The $2.04 billion jackpot may also stand as the only Powerball jackpot to be hit on Election Day as drawings are held each Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday.