Waive EDD False Statement Penalty Weeks during COVID 19 for Claimants in Good Standing
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I am calling attention to an inhumane oversight made by the Employment Development Department of California, during this life altering "shelter in place" order put on the labor force due to COVID-19.
While the State and Federal Government have made temporary and situational changes to the unemployment benefits cap, with it's inclusion of gig economy/1099 self-employed to receive benefits, we MUST address the impact that the "FALSE STATEMENT PENALTY" has had, WHICH IS BEING INDISCRIMINATELY APPLIED TO ANY NEW COVID-19 UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS.
UPDATED PROPOSAL TO JULIE SU, THE LABOR DEPARTMENT, AND THE OFFICE OF GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM (april 24th 2020)
I wrote this petition before the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (FPUA) was issued and implemented. Due to the Immediate need for funds as our petitioners serving false statement penalties, and there cut off to the CARES2 FPUA, we propose the following as an alternative or additional Solution:
In order to receive the FPUA- according to the Implementation notice requires that claimants must be eligible for $1 of their weekly UI benefits. Because
claimants serving false statement penalty, while the do have benefits in their accounts --- we must make at the very least $1 of their weekly benefits amount authorized and available to claimants. We ask that the EDD back pay the past 4 weeks in which the FPUA became available and issued to all serving false statement penalties as a measure based on the foundation of humanity, and making sure all of us get through this horrific, and already devastating pandemic
The $600 that UI claimants receive(d) this would make certain that those with false statement penalty weeks being served can at least put food on there table, and care for our families. These false statement penalty weeks do not just sentence the individuals, it puts extreme hardship on the children and loved one. IF the EDD is unflinching with there duty to PUNISH claimants and hardworking california- then to ask that the EDD allow $1 access for the past weeks (all false statement penalty weeks already served should be back paid the FPUA) and future weeks for claimants sentence to cruel weeks of no income or ability to provide be the LEAST we can do. The EDD would not have the burden of cost for administering such an act, as stated in the FPUA packet issued to all states- the EDD can bill for costs petition to hang on just a little longer- or that you will get back to us. Everyday is We need a solution today- and we thank you for hearing us.
(see Unemployment Insurance program letter 12-20 april 4th 2020)
WHAT IS A FALSE STATEMENT? (EDD CALIFORNIA)
A false statement (FS) disqualification is appropriate when the claimant has either given false information or withheld material information in order to obtain unemployment benefits.
Unemployment Insurance Code Section 1257(a) provides that an individual is disqualified for unemployment benefits if:
He or she wilfully, for the purpose of obtaining unemployment compensation benefits, either made a false statement or representation, with actual knowledge of the falsity thereof, or withheld a material fact in order to obtain any unemployment compensation benefits under this division.
WHAT IS THE FALSE STATEMENT PENALTY?
A penalty week is a week of unemployment benefits that you would normally receive but won't because the state believes you intentionally tried to file a false claim. You file for weekly claims certifications as usual but receive no payment until your penalty weeks are over.
The False Statement Penalty is then placed upon your benefits account at the EDD for an average of 5 to 7 weeks in which the claimant cannot receive benefits. The False Statement Penalty does not get waived or removed for the duration, even though you have paid back the entire amount along with huge penalty fees.
Here is my ARGUMENT FOR THE DISMISSAL OF FALSE STATEMENT PENALTIES PLACED ON EDD ACCOUNTS DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS:
1. WHILE THE FALSE STATEMENTS DISQUALIFICATION ACTION, could be argued as fair in a modestly healthy economic climate, Covid-19 has drastically changed the economy and the ability for workers to access resources. Therefore it is unfair to be implementing such a measure while the government is offering and extending resources and funding to individuals that never would receive benefits in any other situation. WE MUST TAKE CARE OF ALL INDIVIDUALS AT THIS TIME.
2. ANY and ALL claimants that are facing this "false statement penalty" have something in common:
-While claimants may have made an unintentional error on a PAST CLAIM (i.e. NOT the more current claim layoffs caused by COVID 19) - these individuals/claimants were indeed able to find work again and contribute to the labor market, which to summarize: although we may have made a clerical mistake in the past, we still remain as ASSETS TO THE LABOR MARKET, still contributing to unemployment insurance on each paycheck we earn, and still deserving the same emergency treatment as other workforce peers during this pandemic.
3. THE UNEMPLOYMENT OFFICE IS NOT ABLE TO KEEP UP, OR ADDRESS CLAIMANTS SITUATIONS IN A TIMELY MANNER - THEREFORE THERE MUST BE AN ORDINANCE MADE TO TEMPORARILY REMOVE THE FALSE STATEMENT PENALTIES on all of these accounts ASAP. This would allow those in need to get help much faster, and also relieve the burden of pressure placed upon the EDD administration during the time of COVID-19.
Speaking personally - I have not been able to get a single UI representative on the phone. I have called over 400 times as of today. (I can submit call records to prove this). EVERY SINGLE DAY THAT I TRY TO CALL AND AM UNABLE TO COMMUNICATE WITH EDD is one more day that my basic needs of shelter, food, and wellbeing are jeopardized. I can argue that those who have settled their overpayment accounts with EDD, having reimbursed the monies in dispute, along with paying a large penally fee, should now be considered "IN GOOD STANDING", with penance paid. And if there really must be an unfair 7 week penal waiting period, please we ask, could that be pushed forward or temporarily forgiven so that we can have some peace of mind, food to eat, and to pay the bills.
RATHER THAN EXPECTING THE EDD to simply waive everyone's false statement penalties, I believe that the EDD should grant a crisis clause in which:
- THE CLAUSE would aim to temporarily suspend the disqualification punishment to those individual accounts, and reapply it FUTURE-ACTIVELY, once we return to better circumstances. This means that the claims filed for Covid-19 reasons would receive relief of the burden, and freeze those financial penalty obligations. These false statement penalties should be reapplied to those claimants only when the economy, infrastructure, and labor market are back to a functioning system.
- INABILITY FOR INDIVIDUALS TO SPEAK WITH REPRESENTATIVES
It is impossible to speak to a representative at this time, which also indicates how pressured and at the limits the EDD is currently operating at. Enforcing that punishment for claims with False Statement penalties is a catch 22, in that it's only adding to the stress, worry, contempt, and decay of economic progress building. WHY SHOULD THESE CLAIMANTS not receive benefits during COVID-19, when both state and federal government understandably have placed such incapacitiating measures and ordinances on the greater workforce?
- THE PROCESS OF APPEALS could take in excess of 1 month to be handled. This is too long for many people already experiencing financial hardship. Please waive the red tape for now.
- The EDD has 15 business weeks to respond to any appeal, meaning that the appeal and possible overturn/removal of the false statement penalties would not come into effect so far down the line, many individuals will be unable to take care of their basic needs in the meantime.
PERSONAL STATEMENT AND REASON FOR THIS PETITION
I am going to address the financial aid avenues I have pursued and/or are ineligible or have been denied.
1. I am a costumer in the entertainment industry, and was working regularly up until March 15th. (I would have been sworn into the IATSE LOCAL 705 on April 4th 2020, but now have been told my union membership is postponed until July 2020. I will receive no resources, options or support from my union until then.
2. I work at CBS Television City on the YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS (every Friday on set wardrobe to the women), and I day-play on THE LATE LATE SHOW with James Corden, as well as subbing on THE BOLD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. I did not receive pay from my employer the two weeks I was pre-booked for. I lost out on that income because of the "safer at home" ordinance, due to the fact that I am not technically an EMPLOYEE but rather an independent contractor... which I understand and agree with. But I don't have the protection of a steady employer, which makes my need for UI that much more critical in times of disaster.
3. I filed for unemployment promptly, and reduced my spending dramatically. I took charge of meal planning, prepping, shopping, and educating myself and household on logistics and staying informed of protocol during Covid-19.
After calling EDD tech support for a week straight, I was finally able to get through and back into my account yesterday. TO MY SHOCK it showed that I received NO BENEFITS for week 1 and week 2 with the description "FALSE STATEMENT DISQUALIFICATION".
After doing some research, I found this was applied to my account because
1. Two and a half years ago - while going through A VERY TOUGH TIME - I was let go from a job, and when I filed, I accidentally messed up the start date of a part time job. This unfortunately led to overpayment, BUT NOT INTENTIONALLY.
I paid back the the full amount (with a large penalty added to it) 2.5 years ago.
THIS WAS NOT ANYTHING BUT A STUPID MISTAKE, not a willfully false statement as alleged - and all the monies were paid back.
2. From further research and legal document reading I did last night, I read that the EDD puts a 5 to 7 week penalty on your account, and makes it so that you are unable to receive any benefits during this time. So in my situation, I'm still paying penance for making an error that resulted in overpayment (even though this was 2.5 years ago- and I had already paid them back!).
PLEASE NOTE - this also means I won't receive the larger weekly benefit allowance when this disqualification penalty is over. I will receive $313 beginning in 5 weeks- which is already 70% less than I would make should we not have the "Shelter in Place" ordinance due to Covid-19.
LIKE MANY OTHERS IN THE SAME POSITION, I AM OUT OF OPTIONS - unless the State Unemployment Office can recognize this questionably unethical waiting period penalty during disasters and pandemics, and compassionately waive or suspend it.
I do not have great credit, though I have been doing everything in my power to get it back to good standing - which means any small loans I have tried to apply for have been denied at this time.
I don't have wealthy family members or friends that can aid me during a time of need, nor should this burden be put on anyone when I have been faithfully paying into the unemployment insurance system all along with every paycheck.
While I do look for work, there isn't any because of Covid-19.
HERE IS MY ARGUMENT ON WHY THIS PETITION WOULD BENEFIT BOTH THE UNEMPLOYMENT OFFICES OF CALIFORNIA AS WELL AS THE INDIVIDUALS IMPACTED BY THE PENALTY.
I completely understand the 5 week penalty, UNDER A NORMALLY FUNCTION ECONOMY and labor market. My argument for myself, and anyone else who has a determination penalty from a previous claim, is that this punishment of withholding aid during a disaster or pandemic is simply inhumane and unjust.
The state and federal government has already made changes to the unemployment system to aid and expand benefits those of us who were laid off due to Covid 19, and are treating current circumstances as unique and unprecedented. I am hoping to argue that the 7 week waiting period should be FUTURE-ACTIVELY applied to any claimant who made an error in a past claim, and should also NOT BE APPLIED to those who are only just now filing because of the Covid-19 related lay offs.
I am out of options financially, and while I am seeking jobs- EVERYTHING IS SHUT DOWN.
So, this punishment like I said is outdated and INHUMANE. I am asking that the government please act altruistically, give the benefit of the doubt to it's hard working people, and grant amnesty to those of us struggling with this "False Claim determination". We urge EDD to lift this rule to whose who have already paid off their overpayments from past claims, and to retroactively give claimants the benefits they should have received for weeks 1 and 2. This will not only free up much clerical work, but would lessen the burden upon the appeals court, as well as lift morale to a great many.
Thank you for your support, and please reach out if you have any contributing insights or questions.
Los Angeles, CA
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