Explaining Southern California's economy

Thousands of Californians wait and worry as unemployment benefit checks are delayed

Unemployment Insurance Set To Expire For Millions Of Jobless

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LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 01: Job seekers line up to enter Choice Career Fair at the Los Angeles Convention Center on December 1, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.

Tens of thousands of jobless Californians are still waiting to receive their unemployment benefits, due to a computer problem with the state’s updated payment processing system.

Unemployed workers like 50-year-old Maria Casas are worried they can’t afford to pay their bills.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Casas said.

Casas lost her job as a sales coordinator in 2012 and she’s been looking for work, but hasn’t had any luck. She used to earn $45,000 a year, but now relies on $738 in unemployment benefits every two weeks. It’s crucial to paying her mortgage, Casas said.

Casas has lived in her East L.A. home for 15 years and it's been a labor of love. Over the years, she’s repainted the house peach, installed a white picket fence and tore up the old carpet to put in white tile.

“I had a good job. I was able to afford the payments,” Casas said. “My kids were in school. I was able to provide for them. I was able to work that job for 30 years.”

But now, she needs financial help. She’s had thousands of dollars in credit card debt and owes her brother a lot of money. In the past, she’s been able to pay most of the mortgage with her unemployment benefits. Now, she’s turning to her two sons.

“My two children, I’m leaving them with no money,” Casas said. “(I’m) taking all their money to the mortgage.”

Fixing the problem

State Employment Development Department officials say they're working to address the issue. As of Tuesday, 80,000 people were waiting for their unemployment claims to be processed. The problem occurred over the Labor Day weekend, when the state launched an upgraded payment processing system, according to spokeswoman Loree Levy.

The new system works well for 85 percent of its customers, but there has been a delay in the processing of more complex cases, she said.  Letters will be mailed to people letting them know if their payments will be delayed, she said.

Casas hopes she will be notified soon.

“I’m waiting for my check,” Casas said. “I’m waiting for a letter that says your benefits are going to continue or your benefits have stopped—something.” 

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