Employment Dept. Needs Help

Last March our economy slammed on the brakes and thousands were thrown out of work. Millions filed for Unemployment Insurance (UI).

The Employment Development Department, known as EDD, has processed $26 billion in benefits over 12 weeks, vs $22 billion during the entire recession of 2008. This amounts to 14% of all claims filed nationally. Even so, many unemployed workers have run into problems that have delayed payments for weeks or even months.

The deluge of claims overwhelmed EDD, which is in the process of hiring 4,800 new workers. Cases are now being prioritized based on immediate need and for those who have received no payments due to computer glitches and other issues. Many of the hang-ups in claim processing involve identity verification. For example, almost 25% of all claims have an incorrect Social Security number, a typo that results in an accounting review that can hold up a claim for weeks.

EDD has thousands of pending cases, with 500-700 new cases arriving daily just from state legislative offices that people are calling out of desperation. For example, my District Office processed 45 cases last year from mid-March to mid-June -- none involving EDD. This year during the same period, we processed almost 500 cases, the vast majority involving EDD. Even though EDD has dozens of workers dedicated to reviewing cases from legislative District Offices, it can still take them almost a month to reply to our inquiries.

But there are hopeful signs. Call volumes are decreasing and as people return to work and new EDD workers come online, the situation will improve.

To be clear, EDD workers are not at fault. They are saddled with an antiquated system in desperate need of modernization.  I have called for modernization in state government and we can't afford to wait.