California unemployment agency investigating potential widespread fraud

California lawmakers said Wednesday that there is growing evidence of possible widespread fraud in the state’s unemployment benefits system, and the agency in charge confirmed it is investigating whether people have filed dozens of bogus claims during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news comes as Californians across the state continue to report frustrating experiences with the state Employment Development Department that have left them without crucial jobless benefits needed to pay rent and support their families. Legislative leaders announced Thursday that they have approved an emergency audit to look into ongoing problems at the agency, including computer glitches, unanswered phone lines and bureaucratic tangles, which have stalled payments to about 1 million jobless Californians.

Concerns about potential fraud surfaced recently after numerous Californians who have not filed unemployment claims reported receiving dozens of letters from the EDD regarding claims filed in the names of other people. Lawmakers say they are concerned scammers are using their constituents’ addresses to file fraudulent claims.