California Sent $42 Million in Unemployment Benefits to Prisoners in Other States


The State of California sent $42 million in unemployment benefits to inmates in prisons and jails in other states, part of $4 billion in similar losses to fraud, according to an internal investigation of the Employment Development Department.

A large number of Florida inmates, including a man sentenced to 20 years for second-degree murder, are among the thousands of out-of-state prisoners who have allegedly received California pandemic unemployment benefits, according to a December analysis commissioned by the state Employment Development Department and reviewed by The Times.

The analysis compared data on incarcerated individuals nationwide against nearly 10 million people on the state pandemic unemployment rolls, and found that the EDD approved more than 6,000 claims, totaling more than $42 million, involving individuals who were probably incarcerated elsewhere when they were paid by California.

Altogether, the analysis found there were more than 20,000 claims deemed at high or moderate risk of having been paid to an incarcerated person, either in California or another state. If all those claims were fraudulent, the $42 million estimate of payments to inmates would jump to $96 million.

Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle noted, the state suspended unemployment benefit payments to many people, including legitimate recipients, because of fears of ongoing fraud. The state is supposed to tell them Wednesday how to verify their identities to continue receiving benefits.

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