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CA Unemployment Office Under Fire For Payment Delays

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A staffer works to process claims at California's unemployment office, March 30, 2020. (California Employment Development Department)
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California’s unemployment office is coming under fire as state lawmakers say too many workers seeking benefits are still waiting.

Unemployed Californians report having trouble with the state’s online application process. Some applicants say they’ve spent months unsuccessfully trying to get through to someone on the phone at the state’s Employment Development Department (EDD).

In a legislative hearing in Sacramento on Thursday, state lawmakers grilled EDD director Sharon Hilliard. Some of the facts highlighted during the hearing include:

  • EDD has processed an unprecedented 9.3 million claims since the coronavirus pandemic began. For comparison, the department processed 3.8 million claims during the worst year of the Great Recession.
  • Close to 890,000 applicants who may be eligible for payments still have not been paid. Hilliard said most have not completed the steps to certify for benefits, but she said EDD is aware of 239,000 claims that still need department resolution.
  • During normal economic times, EDD delivers payments to 80% of applicants within three weeks, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. But during the pandemic, only 62% of Californians have been paid within three weeks of applying, compared to the nationwide average of 69%.
  • Though EDD has expanded call center hours for technical support, the department’s core call center — staffed by 100 caseworkers — is only open four hours per day on weekday mornings. Applicants on the department’s callback list are waiting four to eight weeks to be contacted, on average.

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