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Santa Barbara woman fights for her independence and her unemployment benefits

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Here's another sad chapter in our long running series of reports into systemic failures at the California Employment Development Department.

Santa Barbara resident Leslie Jackson filed for unemployment benefits more than a year ago and she's still waiting. She filed her claim with the EDD in March, 2020 and like so many others, she had to go before a judge to prove her identity.

"Need your passport, your ID, your bank statement, your social security card and, um, sent them all to them and they still didn't believe it was me," said Jackson.

Jackson proved her case and the judge ruled in her favor.

"I got $800 and that was the good news. But two weeks later, they said, 'Oh, I overpaid you $900.' Okay that's totally wrong," said Jackson.

Jackson is a fighter. She's a Hall of Fame water polo player from the Fresno area. She played at Cal-Berkeley on a scholarship, but then she suffered a stroke during a snowboarding accident and spent years learning how to walk and talk again.

"I'm disabled. I've been, I've had a stroke ten years ago and I've been trying to be independent and I'm stubborn. They should have a phone line for disabled people because I cannot read well and that's where most of my problems happen," said Jackson.

Jackson says she's called EDD many times asking for special assistance, but so far no help and no benefits for more than a year. She's not working, she's out of money and behind on her rent.

"And that's so unfair because I've been trying to be independent and I've been trying for ten years and I lasted about five years a-ok, but this pandemic happened and I have to move home. I'm broke because I don't have anymore money," said Jackson.

Jackson called the NewsChannel 3 Tipline in a last ditch effort to get her benefits. We looked at her documentation and contacted EDD on her behalf several times, but for months we did not receive a response. Just like Jackson, we refuse to give up.

"I think that's so unfair, so unfair," said Jackson.

Late Friday, an EDD official confirmed they resolved the identity and other issues with Jackson's claim. They say all she has to do is certify her eligibility and she will receive her benefits. We'll let you know if that happens.
In the meantime, friends and family have setup a GoFundMe page to help Leslie stay in her home. 

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County

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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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