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A bipartisan group of California lawmakers is asking Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan for answers about unemployment payment problems that have upended the lives of thousands of jobless Californians who rely on the bank’s prepaid debit cards.

Lauren Helper

CalMatters

The letter made public today comes days after CalMatters detailed how the state’s exclusive unemployment payment contract with the bank has been strained by unprecedented demand and brazen fraud during the pandemic, ensnaring more than 350,000 unemployment debit cards in mass account freezes. Also under fire for its role in long payment delays is the state Employment Development Department, which first signed the contract with Bank of America in 2010 and earlier this year amassed a backlog of 1.6 million unpaid jobless claims amid mounting concern about rooting out fraud.

“Constituents report they are unable to get through to your call centers, or when they do, the issue is not resolved,” states the letter, which was signed by more than three dozen state senators and assemblymembers. “It is simply unacceptable that Californians entitled to benefits are suddenly not able to obtain them due to a Bank of America determination that is impossible to appeal.”

Among the questions the lawmakers want Moynihan to answer: Bank of America’s criteria for freezing accounts and seizing jobless benefits, who’s on the hook for paying back fraudulent charges, and how their constituents can resolve outstanding debit card claims.

About the Author

Lauren covers the California economy for CalMatters. Her past stories have been published by the New York Times, the L.A. Times, the Guardian and others.

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