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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (43rd District of California)

December 2, 2020

Press Release

Waters Blasts Bank of America for Fueling Unemployment Crisis in California 

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, issued the following statement regarding Bank of America’s involvement in fueling the unemployment crisis in California: 

“As COVID-19 cases surgeover a million Californians now find themselves out of a job and wondering whether they will sleep under a roof or if they will have food on the tableIt is completely unacceptable that Bank of America, which has had an exclusive contract with California’s Employment Development Department to deliver state unemployment benefits through prepaid debit cards, is allowing accounts to be frozen, closed, or drained of money without notice.  

For many, the unemployment money delivered through these state-issued Bank of America debit cards is an essential lifeline during the middle of an unprecedented pandemic. According to recent reports, the backlog of unpaid unemployment claims in California peaked at 1.6 millionwith up to 377,500 EDD debit cards administered by Bank of America being frozen during the pandemicDisappointingly, Bank of America declined to answer questions from the press about how many Californians are still unable to use their accounts to access their unemployment benefitsif and when account holders will be paid back, or even how much money Bank of America has made in fees off the card.  

At a time when struggling individuals need prompt access to these critical funds, answers should be given. I believe that Bank of America, in coordination with the California Employment Development Department, must immediately rectify this issue, and ensure that unemployment benefits can be accessed by those who are rightfully entitled to them. 

Bank of America’s failures to provide services it committed to flies in the face of its recent pledge to help local communities address economic and racial inequality accelerated by COVID-19. I believe the Bank should take immediate steps to make good on its commitment to ensure that recipients of unemployment benefits do in fact receive them. I will be looking into Bank of America’s and, as appropriate, other banks practices to ensure that the American people get the support they need. 

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