REPORT: At Least $400 Million In Unemployment Benefits Given To Prisoners In California

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Font Size:

The California Employment Development Department approved around 20,000 unemployment claims from prisoners at local, state, and federal institutions, leading to improper payments of at least $400 million, Fox Business reported Wednesday.

The improper payments are being investigated by nine district attorneys and one federal prosecutor, according to the Fox Business report. The Employment Development Department scrambled to try and get benefits to the large number of residents who needed them during the coronavirus pandemic when unemployment skyrocketed.

During a recent news conference, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said that the fraud could total as much as $1 billion. The investigation is ongoing, she said according to the report. (RELATED: Californians Are Staring At A $54-Billion Deficit After Gov Newsom Instituted A Statewide Lockdown)

“The breadth of this fraud is massive,” the district attorney said, according to Fox. “The aggregate combined … could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars of theft from legitimate people that so desperately need it.”

Among those who improperly received benefits were serial killers and death row inmates, Schubert said.

States typically use technology to cross-examine unemployment claims with prison populations in order to prevent misallocation of funds. 35 states accepted federal aid to update this technology – California was not one of them. Of the about 31,000 prisoners who filed unemployment claims, 20,800 actually received benefits, California Labor and Workforce Development Agency spokesperson Crystal Page said according to Fox News.

Jon Cox, who founded C.H.A.N.G.E. CA, a project of the Rescue California Educational Foundation, said that the misallocation of unemployment benefits “is the tip of the iceberg.”

“If we really looked at what’s going on in California, I’m here to tell you that the mismanagement and fraud and spending in the spending in this state have got to be mammoth,” Cox told Fox News. “These are the ones that came to light. Think of all the other schemes going on that haven’t come to light.”