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State lawmakers call on Bank of America to help fix frozen EDD debit card accounts

Dozens of California lawmakers sent a letter to the CEO of Bank of America asking for answers and solutions for people locked out of their EDD debit cards.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — California state lawmakers are calling on Bank of America to do something to help unemployed people frozen out of their EDD debit card accounts.

Some people have not been able to access their money since October, when the EDD, working with Bank of America who issues the debit cards, temporarily suspended approximately 693,000 claims as part of its fraud efforts. But tens-of-thousands of those frozen accounts were actual unemployed people who lost access to their money. 

We've heard from several viewers who say they have taken steps to verify their identity but still can't access their accounts. When they call EDD for answers they are told to contact Bank of America, but the bank sends them right back to EDD.

“Essentially if you call, time and time again, you ask 10 different people, you’re going to get 10 different answers," Greg Jablonski told ABC10. “When I contact Bank of America, they practically treat me like I’m a criminal. They won’t release any information to me. They say I have to contact EDD." 

Jablonski detailed how the error caused him real hardship.

“It’s a struggle," Jablonski said. "You know, I had to ask friends and family for assistance. I mean we’re talking just basic things like gas and groceries.”

He went nearly three months without receiving any payment.

“As the weeks went by, it was getting scarier and scarier because I do have a wife and a daughter to take care of,” Jablonski said.

In a letter to Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, a group of 59 state lawmakers, spearheaded by Assemblymember Phil Ting, said their legislative offices are dealing with an "unprecedented number" of requests for help with fixing EDD issues and their Bank of America debit cards.

“It’s absolutely horrible," said Ting. "And that’s why we’ve been talking to EDD as well, and they said their hands are tied. It’s all up to Bank of America.”

According to the letter, lawmakers said they were told by EDD, "that Bank of America has a proprietary formula to detect fraud and has taken it upon themselves to freeze cards and take money from recipients."

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Lawmakers also raised concerns about problems getting through to representatives at call centers.

"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," lawmakers wrote in the letter.

The letter lists 11 questions it wants Bank of America to answer, including:

  • Why is Bank of America taking funds and freezing cards? What criteria is Bank of America using? 
  • When CA EDD clears fraud or verifies identity on their end, why is Bank of America not immediately unfreezing the cards that CA EDD asks Bank of America to unfreeze? 
  • Our offices have many cases in which Bank of America states that EDD froze the card. Our staff call EDD, who claims the problem is entirely on Bank of America’s end. What is the solution to this problem? 
  • What needs to happen for a constituent to have their card reactivated and funds restored?
  • Can Bank of America proactively contact consumers when their card is deactivated, or funds will be taken so they are not forced to discover this when they use the card? 

The letter ends by asking Bank of America to provide an explanation to Governor Gavin Newsom and the state legislature by Dec. 1.

“The situation as it exists is totally unacceptable," said Ting. "We need to make sure that the customers who are relying on a basic banking service can get access to their money.”

Ting said such a business relationship is not acceptable.

“We are a client and they are a vendor and we would like the vendor to cure these problems," Ting said. "No different than us calling our bank and saying, 'Hey, we would like this issue to be resolved.'”

Bank of America responded to ABC10 with an emailed statement:

"Unfortunately, there has been billions of dollars of fraud during this pandemic in state unemployment programs, including California. We are working with the state and law enforcement to identify and take action against fraudulent applicants, protect taxpayer money and ensure that legitimate applicants can access their benefits. 

We have increased our call center staffing for our pre-paid cards nearly 20-fold since the pandemic began and continue to add staff to serve people calling in.

 We encourage anyone with a claim to contact us and provide supporting documents, if possible, so we can review their situation as quickly as possible."

 

WATCH: Frozen out of EDD Debit card account, here's what a state Senator says to do

If you have questions about who to contact to get your account unfrozen or money returned to your account. Here’s the latest guidance from EDD. 

EDD debit card frozen and request from EDD to verify ID

If your EDD debit card account has been frozen, you should check to see if you have received a notice from the EDD to provide identity verification. EDD is reaching out to people via email, text message and mail.

EDD said it is likely your claim was impacted by “fraud indicators,” such as a high volume of claims filed at a single address. You will need to verify your ID with EDD before it will issue any further payments.

To verify your identification, follow the instructions in the message from EDD and login to your UI Online account. From there you can upload your identity documents with the document upload feature, which is available on mobile and desktop.

If you need help uploading your documents, you can use a new feature on the AskEDD page. Once there:

  • Select the “Unemployment Insurance” category
  • For sub-category pick “Payments”
  • Under topic, select “Frozen EDD Debit Card”

From there you will be able to provide contact information so EDD can follow up.

Once your identity is verified, EDD said, “Payments will be re-established for claimants whose identities are verified and accounting will be done to clear them from any connection to a possible fraudulent claim.”

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EDD debit card frozen but you have not received a message from EDD

If your EDD debit card account is frozen but you have not received a request from EDD to verify your identity, EDD said it is likely that Bank of America froze the card.

Reasons for Bank of America to freeze or suspend an account include suspected fraudulent, unauthorized or unlawful activities or a suspect transaction.

EDD said you should call Bank of America at the number on the back of your card (1-866-692-9374) to resolve the situation.

Funds reduced or deducted from an EDD debit card

If you have funds removed from your EDD debit card account, EDD said that action was made by Bank of America, not them. EDD said it has no direct access to debit card funds on any accounts due to privacy reasons.

Many cardholders were confused by the transactions because the debits appeared in the transaction history as being debited by EDD, even though the changes were made by Bank of America. The bank agreed to change the description of these transactions moving forward.

If you have questions about a debit on your account, you should call Bank of America at the number on the back of your card (1-866-692-9374) to resolve the situation.

If you have any questions about EDD or unemployment text our Dollars and Sense team at 916-321-3310.

WATCH MORE: Many frustrated as EDD, Bank of America freeze many debit cards

► GET THE LATEST DEVELOPMENTS: Get unemployment benefits news updates in your email with the Daily Blend newsletter. Sign up at www.abc10.com/email