HESPERIA, Calif. -- The Employment Development Department has shut down 350,000 unemployment claims while trying to weed out fraud. However, it's inadvertently cut benefits to legitimate workers all over the state. They say their only source of income has been locked up for months and many had nowhere to turn, but our sister station KGO-TV has been helping those struggling.
The EDD says it's blocking suspicious accounts; mostly those with multiple claims at one house. But workers say they've proven they're legitimate, and still EDD won't release their money. Now it's separated one mom from her kids.
Roxzan Macon provided in-home care to the elderly until the pandemic hit, all but ending home visits. Thankfully, unemployment benefits kept her going.
"I was getting groceries for myself and my kids," Macon said. "We were in Walmart and the transaction was declined. And it said the account was closed."
Her EDD account still had $9,000 in it. But when she tried to use it, she saw this ominous message: "Your account cannot be accessed."
"So you call, people hang up on you, you're on hold two hours, they say, 'Let me transfer you,' you're on hold another 45 minutes and then the phone goes dead," Macon said.
EDD finally told Macon she had to verify her identity to unlock the account.
"So I uploaded my driver's license and utility bill, they said it'll take three or four days," Macon said.
But a week later, her account was still locked. She called the EDD.
Macon recalled, "She says, 'Well, you didn't upload your Social Security card.' I said, 'My Social Security card? They told us not to send the Social Security card.' She said, 'Yep that's the problem... you have to start all over.'"
Macon uploaded more documents. But her account remained locked, and the requirement changed again.
"The gentleman said, 'Well, you know, did you write your Social Security number on the paper?,'" Macon said. "I was like, no, I didn't. He said, 'Well that's the problem... you gotta do it all over again.'"
Macon uploaded four more documents, but no response from the EDD.
"I probably called maybe 3,200 times," she said. "Some people say it'll take 10 days. Some people say it'll be after the new year. I do understand there is a lot of fraud out there, but what about those legitimate people? What about those legit claims the ones who actually need their money?"
Money quickly ran out.
"I had a yard sale," Macon said. "I had to sell clothing and stuff just to buy food and stuff."
It wasn't enough.
Macon said, "How can you tell the kids, 'No, you can't have anything to eat. No, we don't have enough noodles. We don't have any noodles.' How much are noodles? Get noodles, a pack of noodles for 30 cents right now. That's heartbreaking for a parent as an adult to tell a child that they can't have anything to eat. It's very sad."
If only the EDD would unlock her account.
"They yell at you for calling every day, 'Well we got your notes, you called earlier, just have to give us time,'" Macon said.
"It's gonna be three months," she continued. "It's gonna be the first of the year. 'Just give us time to do our job.' Do your job? Really?"
"Makes you feel less than human. Make you feel like trash," Macon said.
She sent her children to live with their aunt. "You don't know how many days and nights I've cried. Absolutely, I'm missing my children. I couldn't properly take care of them."
Macon saw the reports from KGO-TV's 7 On Your Side about others locked out of their accounts, still awaiting clearance too. KGO asked EDD about her case. A spokesperson said: "It's heartbreaking to hear any kind of story like this. It's why we are prioritizing efforts to quickly authenticate legitimate claimants. Records indicate that this claimant was sent at least a couple of emails and a text message."
That doesn't help Macon.
"Like I say, what about those that have legitimate claims? Fix those. Fix those legitimate claims," she said.
After much back and forth, KGO got EDD to at least send future payments to her via check - that $9,000 is still locked up.