California voters will decide on Newsom’s mental health overhaul. How did we get here?

Fallout from our state’s long history of breaking promises to people with serious mental illness is everywhere.

It can be found under our overpasses and in our tent encampments, but also inside our jails and prisons, our emergency rooms, our schools, our homes.

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It flashes across our public opinion polls, which repeatedly list mental health as a top concern.

Increasingly, it makes its way into our political discourse. Referencing “our broken system,” Gov. Gavin Newsom in recent years has rolled out mental health policies with dizzying speed.

Now he’s promoting Proposition 1, a two-pronged March ballot measure that would fund a $6.4 billion bond for treatment beds and permanent supportive housing, while also requiring counties to spend more of their existing mental health funds on people who are chronically homeless. 

The measure makes promises of its own. 

“These reforms, and this new investment in behavioral health housing, will help California make good on promises made decades ago,” Newsom has said.

What are the promises that California has made to people with mental illness over the years? And why are so many people still suffering?

Here’s a brief timeline of mental health policies in our state—of promises made and promises broken—during the past 75 years.

1950s & 1960s: An era of institutionalization

In the 1950s, it is relatively easy to force people into state mental hospitals, many of which have horrific conditions. The number of patients peaks in the late-1950s, at approximately 37,000. During that time, the state starts shifting control over mental health services to counties, embarking on the process of deinstitutionalization. This process accelerates in the late 1960s with the passage of the landmark Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, a law designed to protect the civil rights of people with mental illnesses.

1954: The federal Food & Drug Administration approves Chlorpromazine (Thorazine), the first antipsychotic drug, to treat people with serious mental illnesses.

1957: The California Legislature increases funding for community mental health under the Short-Doyle Act, aiming to treat more people in their communities instead of in state hospitals.

1963: President John Fitzgerald Kennedy signs the Community Mental Health Act, promising federal leadership to build and staff a network of community mental health centers. Less than a month later, he is assassinated. Many of the clinics are never built.

1965: Congress creates Medicare and Medicaid, allowing people with mental illnesses to receive treatment in their communities.

1967: Then-Gov. Ronald Reagan signs the Lanterman-Petris-Short law limiting involuntary detention of all but the most gravely disabled people with mental illness and providing them with legal protections.

1970s & 1980s: California tax revolt leads to austerity

As state mental hospitals close in the 1970s, many people with serious mental illnesses are moved into for-profit nursing homes and board and care homes. Their numbers on the streets and inside jails and prisons begin to rise. The 1980s sees significant funding cuts for mental health services at both the state and federal levels.

1978: The Community Residential Treatment Systems Act seeks to create unlocked, noninstitutional alternatives for people with mental illness throughout California.

The same year, voters pass Proposition 13, capping property taxes and reducing the amount of money available to counties for a variety of services, including mental health.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Former Chapman Law dean John Eastman appeals for more money as license is threatened

Column: The former president’s former lawyer has been watching the Georgia soap opera closely

As the soap opera in Georgia rivets the nation, the deadline for a California Bar judge to rule on John Eastman’s law license — can he keep it and earn money to fight those criminal charges in Georgia, or will he be disbarred for trying to overthrow democracy? — was supposed to be February’s end.

But decision day has been pushed back a month or so.

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Turns out the State Bar’s prosecutor incorrectly cited a court case in a filing and asked to fix it. Attorneys for Eastman, the former dean of Chapman Law School, responded with a long list of other things they consider to be factually incorrect in the prosecutor’s filings. So now Judge Yvette Roland’s decision will be due by March 27, a State Bar spokesperson said by email.

Eastman has been charged with 11 counts by the State Bar, the most colorful of which are “dishonesty and moral turpitude.” He’s accused of prodding state electors to send fake electoral votes for Trump to the Capitol, of filing false information with courts, of spreading incendiary lies that fed the rage that consumed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and cost several people their lives.

Meantime, the former dean is keeping an eagle eye on the drama in the Peach State — seeing, perhaps, a way out — and pushing for more contributions to cover millions in legal bills.

“The sixty four dollar question many people are asking is whether Fulton County (Georgia) District Attorney Fani Willis and her (apparently former) boyfriend will be removed from prosecuting President Trump, me and some 17 other defendants on ridiculous, politically-motivated charges,” Eastman wrote in an essay published Wednesday, Feb. 21, on City News OKC’s website.

“The answer, according to numerous legal experts is: they sure should be. Judge Scott McAfee’s hearing last week turned into a must-watch TV drama. It reminded me of watching O.J. Simpson driving his white Bronco on a Los Angeles freeway back in the day with TV helicopters hovering above and police cars behind. You just couldn’t turn away, wondering how things would end….

“I obviously am much more than just an interested observer in this legal drama. The two people at its center are seeking to ruin my life, destroy my reputation and put me in prison simply because I lawfully gave President Trump legal advice on questioning the integrity of the 2020 election.”

Willis’ Georgia grand jury indicted Eastman, Trump and others on racketeering and other charges, saying they aimed to disenfranchise Georgia voters.

The former president’s former lawyer has bemoaned the “surreal, exhausting battle to defend my integrity” in fundraising emails, pinning the price tag for his legal defense at some $3 million to $3.5 million. He faces “an onslaught of false charges leveled by radical leftwing lawyers working with lawfare groups. Tragically, many of these false charges were repeated nearly word-for-word by State Bar prosecutors and form the basis of the Bar’s prosecution against me,” he told potential contributors.

Eastman’s GiveSendGo account has hit $628,000, with more than $10,000 in small donations pouring in over the past month. A donor recently kicked in $1,000, saying, “I remain appalled that the California Bar is persecuting you for zealously representing your client. How could the ethics authorities be so unethical?”

Eastman is categorically innocent of all the charges against him, Eastman has said, and is doing everything in his power to defend himself and expose the truth.

“The unprecedented ferocity and extent of the various lawfare attacks against me have been grueling,” he wrote on CityNewsOKC. “I am fighting this lawfare assault vigorously but I’m going to need to raise over $3 million to contend with the totality of the assault being waged against me.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

California lawmakers face a ballooning budget deficit

The biggest challenge facing lawmakers and Gov. Gavin Newsom is the state budget deficit — and it just got bigger.

Today, the Legislative Analyst’s Office projected the shortfall as $15 billion higher, or $73 billion.

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The analyst’s office had pegged the 2024-25 deficit at $58 billion in January, using Newsom’s revenue estimates when he presented his initial budget proposal of $292 billion. 

On Friday, Newsom’s Department of Finance reported that preliminary General Fund cash receipts in January were $5 billion below (or nearly 20%) the governor’s budget forecast. Unless state tax revenues pick up significantly, the bigger number will make it more difficult to balance the state budget just through dipping into reserves and targeted spending cuts. 

But exactly how the state can dig its way out — at least in the Assembly — remains to be seen. Speaker Robert Rivas told reporters today that the budget has been at the forefront of conversations among Assembly Democrats and that he is very concerned with the growing deficit.

He praised the governor’s commitment to preserving classroom funding, and said he didn’t see a way to avoid dipping into the state’s reserves, as the governor’s January budget plan proposed — though the speaker urged a prudent approach to using rainy day savings in case the budget picture worsens in future years. 

“We are very concerned about short-term fixes for long-term problems,” said Rivas, who took over as speaker last summer, just days after the Legislature and Newsom reached a deal on the 2023-24 budget that covered a $30 billion deficit after two years of record surpluses.  

“Clearly, we need to prioritize oversight and curb spending and our investments,” Rivas added.

In the coming weeks, Rivas’ plan calls for an oversight budget subcommittee he formed in December to review the state’s spending on housing, he said. 

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Oakland’s Crime Stats Only Tell Half the Story; 6,000 Businesses Stopped Paying Taxes | Chris Moore

Small businesses and residents in Oakland are struggling with rising crime and safety issues, according to Chris Moore, a board member of the Bay Rental Housing Association. In an interview, Moore cited statistics showing over 6000 small businesses stopped paying business taxes in 2023, and businesses like In-N-Out Burger and a popular restaurant called Snail Bar have closed or been damaged by theft.

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Moore criticized Oakland City Council policies around public safety, noting the council has proposed defunding the police by 50% while crime rates for offenses like armed robbery and car theft have increased sharply. A restaurant owner described being burglarized three times and receiving only duct tape from the city to board up the damaged windows.

Residents say the current city council downplays rising crime by only comparing murder rates to past decades, ignoring other crime trends. Communities of color in East and West Oakland face significant blight and violence that city leaders do not adequately address, according to Moore.

Click here to read the full article in California Insider

Coupal: Gov. Newsom’s silly arguments against the Taxpayer Protection Act don’t stickCoupal:

Last week, the organizations sponsoring the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act (TPA) filed their response to the governor and Legislature’s lawsuit, which seeks to remove the overwhelmingly popular measure from the November general election ballot. 

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The Taxpayer Protection Act will close court-created loopholes in Prop. 13 as well as providing additional taxpayer safeguards:

  • Empower voters with the right to approve or reject all new state taxes as well as local taxes.
  • Increase accountability and transparency so politicians spend our tax dollars more efficiently, and ballot titles for tax increases are clear and truthful.
  • Stop government agencies from imposing “hidden taxes” disguised as fees imposed by appointed bureaucrats.

The organizations that are sponsoring and defending the Taxpayer Protection Act include the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the California Business Roundtable and the California Business Properties Association, which collectively represent tens of thousands of homeowners, businesses large and small, and owners of commercial real estate. These groups were supported by several “friend of the court” briefs from over a dozen local taxpayer associations. 

The lawsuit by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democrat leadership, backed by public employee unions, calls for the nearly unprecedented step of using the courts to deny voters their constitutional right to vote on this duly qualified initiative, a commonsense taxpayer protection and accountability measure. They are using a series of political, not legal arguments, to ask the California Supreme Court to remove the measure from the ballot. 

The legal brief from the pro-taxpayer coalition exposed the abject lack of legal merit in the arguments from the governor and his allies in the Legislature. Specifically, the attack on the Taxpayer Protection Act fell far short of meeting the extremely high threshold the California Supreme Court has established for removing duly qualified initiatives from the ballot before voters exercise their constitutional right to vote. 

The lawsuit against TPA is chock full of frivolous political arguments to support their position that California voters should not have the right to vote on future taxes. If the lawsuit proves anything it’s that the tax-and-spend progressives who control California are scared to death that TPA will pass. And that fear is well founded as evidenced by polling showing that its provisions are supported by a majority of Californians. 

Previously, the governor and Legislature’s attorneys complained that “the [Taxpayer Protection Act] reduces the Legislature’s spending power… and increases the power of State and local voters to reject taxes and charges.” 

To which we responded, “Yeah, that’s the point.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

S.F. mayor backs measure to stiffen retail theft penalties

SAN FRANCISCO — Democratic Mayors London Breed of San Francisco and Matt Mahan of San Jose have endorsed a tough-on-crime ballot measure to reform Proposition 47, a controversial initiative that reduced some drug and theft felonies to misdemeanors.

The measure — called the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, Retail Theft Reduction Act — would change the 2014 law by increasing penalties for fentanyl dealers and repeat organized retail theft rings, as well as providing mandatory treatment for drug users.

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“In San Francisco, we are making progress on property crimes, but the challenges we are facing related to fentanyl and organized retail theft require real change to our state laws,” Breed said. “I fully support this measure and know it will make a meaningful difference for cities across California.”

These endorsements come in the weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters during his January budget presentation that altering Proposition 47 would not curtail the wave of high-profile retail thefts in the state. The Newsom administration instead has proposed six ways lawmakers can expand criminal penalties for organized theft without bringing the issue back to voters. Newsom agreed that tougher enforcement is needed and has called for more arrests in these cases.

Newsom also recently assigned 120 California Highway Patrol officers to combat crime in Oakland.

Proposition 47, supported by Newsom and approved by voters, reclassified some felony drug and theft offenses as misdemeanors and raised from $400 to $950 the amount for which theft can be prosecuted as a felony. Newsom often points out that some of the nation’s most conservative states, including Texas, have a higher threshold for felony charges.

Breed’s announcement comes as she runs for reelection and faces low approval ratings.

In 2022, San Francisco had the highest rate of property theft among all California cities, according to data from the Public Policy Institute of California, a leading nonpartisan group that researches crime trends and policies. Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Mateo also experienced an increase. However, according to the mayor’s office, property crimes in the city were lower than any period in the last 10 years, except for 2020. This year, in the first three weeks of January, property crime is reportedly down 41%.

Mahan told The Times in a phone interview that he was less aware of the governor’s plans and instead was more focused on the results of this bipartisan effort.

“The Legislature will be limited as far as what they can do without the voters,” Mahan said.

He cautioned that if Proposition 47 isn’t reformed now, there might be future support to repeal it altogether, which he said “would be a mistake.” Mahan said he witnessed firsthand a smash-and-grab theft at a grocery store.

“That feeling of no accountability is harmful to our society,” he said.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Some Bills that Caught my Eye from 2024 Introductions

‘Isn’t that kind of obvious? A state statute cannot contradict the state Constitution’

Being the “legislative geek” that I am, as I made my way through the introduced bills in the 2024 California Legislative Session from yesterday’s deadline there have been a few measures that have caught my attention.

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This bill has 227 individual sections, the most I’ve seen so far.

An act to amend Sections 7196.2, 12240, 13400, 13404, 13440, 13442, 13470, and 13531 of the Business and Professions Code, to amend Sections 798.41, 1785.11.9, 1798.98, and 2929.5 of the Civil Code, to amend Sections 349.05, 564, 726.5, and 736 of the Code of Civil Procedure, to amend Section 17213 of the Education Code, to amend Section 824 of the Evidence Code, to amend Sections 819, 7274, and 32202 of the Financial Code, to amend Section 6602 of the Fish and Game Code, to amend Sections 4216, 4216.3, 4217.11, 6546, 7267.9, 7513.7, 7922.700, 8585.01, 8670.3, 8670.56.5, 11342.610, 16428.1, 16428.15, 16428.2, 51010.5, 53313.5, 54957, 61105, 63010, 65912.113, 65912.123, 65913.16, 65950.5, 65963.2, and 70357 of the Government Code, to amend Section 294 of the Harbors and Navigation Code, to amend Sections 18029.1, 19881, 25144, 25299.97, 25421, 38501, 38562, 38594, 39607, 39731, 39733, 40448.5, 40516, 40603, 41062, 41081, 41704, 42301.15, 42710, 43867, 44229, and 78075 of the Health and Safety Code, to amend Sections 7655 and 7800 of the Labor Code, to amend Sections 2202, 2202.5, 10295.3, 10295.35, 10295.5, and 10299.1 of the Public Contract Code, to amend Sections 2005, 3008, 3015, 3180, 3181, 3186.3, 3205.8, 3227.6, 3300, 3316.2, 3500, 3501, 3503, 3635.3, 6245, 6827.5, 21080.25, 21080.40, 21151.8, 25000.1, 25000.5, 25121, 25122, 25125, 25126, 25134, 25140, 25228, 25300, 25301, 25303, 25303.5, 25310, 25320, 25354, 25355, 25401.2, 25401.5, 25402.10, 25412.5, 25540.6, 25550, 25555, 25620.1, 25620.8, 25704, 25722.5, 25722.8, 25722.9, 25794.6, 25943, 25990, 26401, 30001.2, 30107, 30715, and 42891 of the Public Resources Code, to amend Sections 216, 216.6, 328.1, 328.2, 353.1, 366.1, 368, 379.5, 379.6, 390, 391, 398.4, 399.12, 454.56, 454.7, 701.1, 739.4, 740.3, 740.8, 747, 783.5, 784.2, 785.2, 890, 891, 892, 892.2, 896, 950, 955, 958, 963, 972, 975, 1002.5, 1821, 2104.7, 2775.7, 2801, 2802, 2804, 2806, 2811, 2812, 2836.7, 2840.6, 2841, 2851, 3252, 3255, 3310, 3325, 3365, 3369, 4351, 4358, 6350, 6351, 6352, 7673, 7714.5, 8340, 8341, 8371, 8372, 8380, 9616, 9618, and 99500 of the Public Utilities Code, to amend Sections 6358.1, 7284.3, 7326, 7335, 8613, 8651.6, 8651.7, 9258, 9501, 17131.10, 18154, 25128, 60004, and 60022 of the Revenue and Taxation Code, to amend Section 2580 of the Streets and Highways Code, to amend Sections 2402.6, 27602, and 27909 of the Vehicle Code, and to amend Section 24252.1 of the Water Code, relating to methane, and making an appropriation therefor.

Other than the Budget Bill, that’s a lot of code sections affected!

Why is this provision necessary?

Nothing in this section restricts the right of the public to use navigable waters for hunting, fishing, or other public purpose as guaranteed under Section IV of Article X of the California Constitution.

Isn’t that kind of obvious? A state statute cannot contradict the state Constitution.

This bill has an interesting provision.

This act does not affect, and shall not be construed to affect, the validity of City of Woodland Measure S (2004), its applicability to any flood control project, including the subject of this act, or the outcome of the litigation in Yolo County Farm Bureau v. City of Woodland (Yolo County Superior Court Case No. CV 2021-0564; 3rd District Court of Appeal Case No. C097202).

This is unique because it addresses a local ballot measure. In addition, on occasion, the Legislature addresses an appellate court decision, usually to abrogate it. In this case, the intent is to not disrupt the appeals court decision.

SB 1076 is doing it the “right” way (in my opinion):

The Legislature finds and declares that this act furthers the purposes and intent of the California Privacy Rights Act of 2020 by ensuring consumers’ rights, including the constitutional right to privacy, are protected by enacting additional consumer protection provisions regarding consumers’ requests that data brokers delete their personal information, including additional safeguards related to consumers’ use of authorized agents to make those requests.

I really appreciate when bills amending a statutory initiative actually explain why the bill “furthers the purposes” of that ballot measure. In most bills, we find the following as the standard language, which I think is inadequate:

The Legislature finds and declares that this act furthers the purposes and intent of The California Privacy Rights Act of 2020.

I always chuckle when reading the maxims of jurisprudence, most of which were enacted in 1872 in the California Civil Code.

Existing law provides certain maxims of jurisprudence, including acquiescence in error takes away the right of objecting to it. This bill would add to the maxims of jurisprudence described above that the exceptions and qualifications to maxims are more important than the so-called maxims.

Click here to read the full article in California Globe

California lawmakers weigh bill to ban cities from requiring voter ID for local elections


California cities would be prohibited from establishing voter ID requirements in local elections, under a proposed law being considered by the Legislature. SB 1174 is intended to preempt the City of Huntington Beach, which is set to vote this March on whether require that voters present identification before voting in city elections.

It would also affect other city government considering implementing such a policy, according to a statement from the bill’s author, Sen. Dave Min, D-Irvine. California voters are not required to present ID in most circumstances during state elections. However, state law leaves it up to local jurisdictions for local elections. “Healthy democracies rely on robust access to the polls.

That’s why in California we follow the facts when it comes to the overwhelming body of evidence that voter ID laws only subvert voter turnout and create barriers to law abiding voters,” Min said in a statement.

Huntington Beach Mayor Gracey Van Der Mark is a proponent of voter ID requirements, and in an interview with Spectrum News 1 said, “If asking for an ID makes people feel more secure and brings back their faith for our voting system, then why not?”

Min pointed to the success of California’s COVID-19 motivated push for universal mail-in ballots, and that proponents of voter ID laws have not produced any evidence of voter fraud.

“At the same time, we know that voter ID laws can make it more difficult for seniors, people of color, young people, and other historically marginalized groups from participating in our democracy,” he said. The bill has not yet been assigned to a committee for consideration. Civil rights groups and others have long been wary of voter ID requirements.

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A League of Women Voters report said that “not only do these measures disproportionately impact Black, Native, elderly, and student voters, but they also fail to effectively address any real issues related to election integrity — the very thing advocates say these measures are designed to do. “ Min is running to succeed Rep. Katier Porter in Congress.

This bill will not affect his race.

DRUG CARTELS = TERRORISTS? Last year, six people — including a teen mom and her baby son — were executed in Tulare County. Police alleged that the massacre was drug cartel related. Now, California lawmakers are set to consider a bill that would designate violent drug trafficking gangs as foreign terrorist organizations and direct the California Attorney General’s Office to work with the Legislature to crack down on them.

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee

Porter defends ad highlighting little-known GOP rival in Senate race

Rep. Katie Porter, who accused her main Democratic rival in the Senate race of cynicism for attempting to prop up a Republican in the contest, is now doing the same.

The Irvine congresswoman, who is battling with Republican former baseball player Steve Garvey to come in second place in the March 5 primary, is running digital ads touting the conservative credentials of one of Garvey’s GOP rivals.

The Facebook ads argue that Eric Early, an attorney and perennial candidate who polls in the low single digits in the Senate contest, is the true conservative in the race.

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“Who’s the real Republican threat in the California Senate race? MAGA Republican Eric Early proudly stands with Donald Trump, while Steve Garvey refuses to tell us who he supports. Garvey claimed he might even vote for Joe Biden. Get the facts,” the Facebook post says.

Though the ad ostensibly criticizes Early, it is similar to other recent Democratic efforts to boost a Republican’s standing in an election, a byproduct of the state’s open primary system. The top two vote-getters in March move on to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. While Democrats dominate California voter rolls, if Republicans consolidate behind one candidate in a crowded field, he or she could win one of those two spots.

If Porter’s ad increases support for Early among GOP voters, that would eat into Garvey’s support, possibly allowing Porter to win the second spot.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) appears assured to win the top spot in the primary based on polling. His campaign as well as a super PAC backing his bid are spending millions of dollars running television ads highlighting Garvey.

“Two leading candidates for Senate. Two very different visions for California,” a narrator intones in a Schiff campaign ad, noting later that Garvey “is too conservative for California” and voted for former President Trump twice.

At the time, Porter denounced the effort as a political ploy.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

EDD Switches Over To Money Network For Benefit Payments Following $32 Billion in Fraud

Department switches bank networks following $32 billion in fraudulent unemployment claims during pandemic

The Employment Development Department officially switched over from Bank of America to Money Network for unemployment, disability, and Paid Family Leave debit card payments, following years of issues with BofA issued cards.

According to the EDD, old Bank of America EDD Debit Cards will continue to work for now. However April 15, 2024 will be the last day that claimants will be able to use the old cards.  Customers will need to transfer any remaining balance on their debit cards to a different account or request a check for the funds from BofA by that date.

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“With Money Network, customers get the benefits of embedded microchips and state-of-the-art encryption for making contactless payments when using that card,” said EDD Deputy Director Loree Levy in an announcement on Friday.

The switchover from BofA has been in the process for years, dating back to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the EDD was slammed with a record number of requests for unemployment following the shutdown of many businesses in March 2020. The EDD approved so many requests, even lifting their own anti-fraud measures. In January 2021, California Labor and Workforce Development Agency Secretary Julie Su said that the number of fraudulent claims was at S11.4 billion. By the time anti-fraud measures were firmly in place and that all claims could be thoroughly checked, the amount had climbed to $32 billion.

Investigations into the fraud were launched, with Governor Gavin Newsom launching his own investigation. There, they found that the high number of BofA cards issued did not have fraud prevention chips in them, allowing for so many fraudsters to receive them during the pandemic. Task forces soon recommended not only cards with fraud prevention chips, but also cards with tap to pay technology and the option for direct deposits to help combat fraud.

Bank of America, while also struggling to combat the fraud, said that “The vast majority of unemployment fraud is committed by those filing false applications. When fraudulent transactions occur on benefit cards, we review those claims and restore money to legitimate recipients.”

Bank of America – Money Network switchover

Despite this, Bank of America quickly decided to get out of providing unemployment benefits, because of their part in the $32 billion in fraud and giving out outdated cards with no fraud prevention chips. Needing a new partner for benefit payments, the EDD turned to Money Network. The company, which proved itself by sending the Middle Class Tax Refund out in late 2022, won the bid, with the transition between BofA and Money Network starting last year.

This led to the debit card changeover officially happening on Friday. In addition to the provider switchover, the EDD added that a direct deposit option will be implemented later this year, with the EDD to pay Money Network around $32.3 million over the next five years to cover the costs of direct deposit transactions alone. This is all part of the EDDNext program, which while making claims processing easier and faster, will also drastically increase protection against fraud.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe