Californians Struggling to Access Unemployment Benefits

In California, 1.4 million unemployment accounts were suspended at the end of 2020 due to fraud concerns. Some of the recipients, however, verified their identity but still can't access their money,

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Jesus Gomez De La O of San Ysidro, who was working as a bus driver for people with disabilities, was furloughed at the start of the pandemic and eventually laid off.

"It goes by seniority, and my number is, like, 98, and they only have 40 senior drivers working," Gomez De La O explained.

Gomez De La O relied on California's Employment Development Department (EDD) to pay him unemployment via a Bank of America debit card. Then, in December 2020, his account was frozen after a report of fraudulent activity. The EDD told him it would have to suspend payments until verifying his identity, which they eventually did. However, he still couldn't access his Bank of America account.

"They just keep telling me -- for the last two months -- they are working on my account to unfreeze it, and I'm just confused," Gomez De La O said. "If EDD is already clearing me since January, why are they taking so long ?"

Gomez De La O believes it shouldn't be so difficult for someone to gain access to their unemployment funds.

"I know it doesn't seem like a lot, but I want access to the bank account so I can get the $300 back," Gomez De La O said.

NBC 7 emailed and called Bank of America about the situation. A representative responded, in part, "Given that we don’t comment publicly on client matters, we can’t speak publicly. Jesus may have seen some update of his account at this point or should see it soon."

Within hours, Gomez De La O confirmed, he had access to his account, thanks to NBC7's inquiry.

And while Bank of America didn't provide further comment, in the past it has said it has added thousands of agents to answer and investigate claims. Gomez De La O worries, though, that many other people, may never see their money again.

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