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Tipline Investigation: Goleta man tells state, ‘I don’t want your unemployment money, take it back’

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - We’ve reported on many frustrating stories involving major problems in California’s Unemployment System. Sadly, we have another one for you.

Hundreds of thousands of Californians are struggling to survive as the state's Employment Development Department implodes under a crush of fraud and a tidal wave of claims. Some state officials estimate more than two billion dollars in taxpayer money has been lost to fraud. They don't know how much money has been lost to a broken system. The NewsChannel has heard from hundreds of people who filed for unemployment benefits when the pandemic started and have received nothing so far.

A Goleta man has a different problem. He said the state paid him unemployment benefits that he never asked for and now he can't get the EDD to take the money back.

Marc Holden lost his job during the pandemic shutdown in March and filed for unemployment benefits. However, a week later, he landed a new job and immediately notified the EDD, which oversees California’s unemployment system.  He expected all benefits would stop. But, in September he started getting emails from Bank of America to check his account.

“I finally went in and looked and saw that they had deposited $5,700 over the course of months into my EDD account when I was only unemployed for 7 days,” said Holden.

Holden, a former police officer, said he spent many hours on the phone trying to get through to a person at EDD and finally did.

“Frankly, they were surprised that somebody was calling saying, ‘Hey, you paid me too much money,’” said Holden.

Holden said they thanked him for being honest and admitted the EDD system was turned to ‘autopilot’ when the pandemic hit and kept approving benefits. He also said the EDD operator promised to send him instructions to send the money back, but when the instructions arrived in the mail, some of the pages were missing. He said he spent hours on the phone again and was eventually told to take the maximum daily withdrawal from his bank.

“So, I would literally have to go for 11 days, 12 days straight, withdraw $500 from an ATM machine that takes a Bank of America EDD card, put that money aside, then put it in my account,” said Holden.

Then turn around and pay the state.

“I was thinking, you put the money in the account, you can take the money right back out of my account. In fact, it’s been such a hassle I don’t even want the $450 from the week I was unemployed,” said Holden.

We know the EDD can take the money out of accounts if it coordinates with Bank of America. The question is, why is that not happening? You would think EDD officials would be enthusiastic to take money out of Holden’s account and give it to someone who could really use it right now. In the meantime, the money just sits in his EDD account. Holden said he refuses to touch it because as a former cop, he knows the money is not his.

“There’s a price to pay whether I want to go to jail or not and I’m not going to jail for $5,700,” said Holden.

He also believes that if he takes the money out of his EDD account he could face tax consequences because the money would be reported as income.

We've made numerous requests to the EDD for a comment in Holden's case, so far we have not received one. Holden said no one from EDD has contacted him about resolving the issue.

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C.J. Ward

C.J. Ward is the evening anchor for KEYT News Channel 3 and the station’s lead investigative reporter. To learn more about C.J., click here


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