California announced on Saturday that the state will temporarily stop accepting new unemployment claims for the next two weeks as officials work to clear a backlog that includes more than 2 million people who are out of work in the nation's most populous state and prevent fraudulent claims.
According to the state's Employment Development Department, nearly 600,000 California workers have been caught up in a backlog of unemployment claims that have not been processed for more than 21 days. Another 1 million cases are for eligible workers who are currently receiving payments, but are still waiting on a decision for their modified claims.
The state's unemployment office has struggled to keep up with the avalanche of claims that appeared when the coronavirus pandemic forced a lockdown and closure of much of the state's businesses. The EDD has also been hampered by outdated technology that have made it difficult to serve the more than 2.1 million residents who were out of work last month.
California's unemployment rate was 11.4% in August, down from 13.5% in July.
People who need to file a claim between now and Oct. 5, are being asked to provide contact information so the department can reach out to them after the two weeks is over. Anyone currently receiving unemployment claims will not see an interruption in their payments during the two-week pause.
There are at least 1.6 million pending unemployment claims that still need to be verified according to the Sacramento Bee.
“New claimants should not see a delay in benefit payments, and in fact many of them will actually get their payments faster as they avoid the older time-intensive ID Verification process,” Employment Development Department Director Sharon Hilliard wrote in a letter dated Friday to California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
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