(KTLA) — After more than three months, a winner has finally claimed the record $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot, won by a single ticket sold in California. On Monday, California Lottery officials teased a “big announcement” set for Tuesday.
“We will show #CaliforniaEducation a whole lot of LOVE on #ValentinesDay when we unveil the sole winner of the record-breaking $2.04 billion #Powerball #jackpot from November,” California Lottery tweeted.
The lottery’s message indicates the winner is an individual rather than a group of individuals who pooled their funds. In accordance with California law, the name of the winner will be announced Tuesday.
The winning ticket was purchased at Joe’s Service Center in Altadena, just east of Los Angeles. The owner, Joe Chahayed, has already received a $1 million prize for selling the ticket, lottery officials said.
The $2.04 billion Powerball jackpot – with a cash value of $997.6 million – reached the world record-setting size in November after 41 consecutive drawings without a jackpot winner (and a suspenseful drawing-night delay prompted by technical issues). Since drawings happen on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, it may also stand as the only Powerball jackpot to be hit on Election Day after the hourslong technical snafu pushed results into the early hours of Tuesday.
Though it’s unclear why exactly the winner didn’t claim their prize until now, part of the wait may have been due to the thorough vetting process winners undergo in California.
“We have a very thorough process internally, at least here in California, to vet big winners,” Carolyn Becker, deputy director of public affairs for the California Lottery, told Nexstar last month. “We don’t even call them winners until they’re cleared by that security review.”
Becker explains the process can take weeks or even months as lottery staff, which includes security and law enforcement officials, work to determine whether the claimant is, in fact, a winner and not a scammer before announcing the victory and granting the prize.
The $2.04 billion Powerball ticket holder not only faces an intense vetting process but some tough, life-altering questions before they can pocket the funds. The biggest was likely be whether to take the lump sum payment of $997.6 million or the annuity option of 29 annual payments that increase by 5% each year. Their decision is expected to be announced Tuesday.
Proceeds from California Lottery ticket sales support public schools and colleges. Since the California Lottery began in 1985, California schools have received more than $39 billion in funding. In fiscal year 2020-21, the Lottery contributed $1.8 billion to public schools.
If you’re interested in seeing where lottery money is being put to use in your area, the California Lottery has an interactive map and a searchable database for local school districts on its website.
The website also includes detailed reports of the most recent contributions and additional resources for those who want to play the lottery responsibly.
KTLA’s Travis Schlepp contributed to this report.