Home>Articles>EDD Director Rita Saenz Abruptly Resigns, Replaced by Deputy Director

EDD Director Rita Saenz (Photo: Edd.ca.gov)

EDD Director Rita Saenz Abruptly Resigns, Replaced by Deputy Director

It’s deja vu all over again: 4th EDD director since 2020

By Evan Symon, January 29, 2022 2:13 am

Employment Development Department (EDD) Director Rita Saenz abruptly announced her retirement in a staff email on Friday, with Governor Gavin Newsom to appoint EDD chief deputy director of external affairs Nancy Farias to the post early next year.

Saenz had been in the position for a little over a year. Prior to Saenz, Sharon Hilliard was head of the EDD from February 2020 to November 2020. During that time, Hilliard oversaw the drastic ramp-up of  COVID-19 caused unemployment benefits, leading to a massive backlog in the department of claims. However, this led to a massive rush-through of claims. While the EDD tried to get help to as many people as quickly as possible, it also led to fraudulent claims to slip through. By the time of Hilliard’s resignation in November 2020, the number of fraudulent claims totaled $31 billion, with a backlog of claims still in effect despite new upgrades to the EDD system.

Saenz took the reins the following month, and throughout 2021, managed to erase the claims backlog and fought fraud, leading to 345,000 disability claims to be frozen earlier this month as a result. However, the EDD has had numerous recurring issues during this time, with the fraud cases getting so bogged down that former federal prosecutors had to be called in to help out. More recently, the EDD has faced additional bad press by trying to recollect already doled out COVID relief funds to legitimate unemployed people, a situation that could lead to a bump of bankruptcies.

With controversies brewing at the EDD again, Saenz resigned on Friday. She noted that while the Department had improved during her tenure, especially in implementing reforms, problems still persist.

“This year has been an eventful one, following a just as eventful year before,” said Saenz on Friday. “During this time I have had the privilege to work with you a brilliant and dedicated staff. It has been such a pleasure.

“I am proud of the many reforms and new programs EDD put in place during the last year, and Nancy Farias has the energy and direct experience to keep this positive momentum going. I was privileged to work directly with Nancy Farias during this important time of transformation at EDD. She has worked tirelessly during these last 16 months alongside everyone else, leading, strategizing, and initiating new strategies. She has had a major hand in the transformations that are now taking place at EDD, and will continue to see them through.”

4 EDD Directors since 2020

Governor Gavin Newsom quickly issued a release following her resignation, naming Farias as the next Director.

Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“Nancy Farias has played an invaluable role in the Department’s ongoing efforts to strengthen the state’s unemployment system and implement improvements to better support hardworking Californians when they need it most,” noted Newsom. “I look forward to her partnership in this all-important work to help California’s families, businesses and communities continue to recover and thrive.”

Farias, who had previously served in multiple legislative, legal, and union roles, including serving as the Director of Government Relations at SEIU Local 1000 from 2017 to 2020, has been chief deputy director of the EDD since late 2020. She is expected to be sworn in on February 1st.

“What isn’t being said is that the rampant fraud and issues happening at the EDD have led them to having 4 different Directors since the beginning of 2020. Four,” emphasized Linda Ellis, an unemployment legal advisor, to the Globe on Friday. “Nobody is working out and all this fraud persists. This is very worrying. Everyone is patting each other on the back today over what they’ve done, but wow, they are missing the big picture here on how the EDD still needs a lot of help to modernize it.”

Saenz will become the next Commissioner of the California Commission on Aging following the transition of power on Tuesday.

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10 thoughts on “EDD Director Rita Saenz Abruptly Resigns, Replaced by Deputy Director

  1. Since employment is most often associated businesses, maybe EDD should be led by someone with a business degree and private-sector business management experience, instead of the usual “Masters in Political Science and a Juris Doctorate” political appointee. A single Certified Managerial Accountant would probably be more effective than any of these political appointees and their entire staff.

  2. Oh great, the EDD replacement Nancy Farias is connected to the SEIU. That should work out well. Not.
    If the EDD scandal had been the only blot during Newsom’s reign it would be more than plenty enough.
    But no, it is just one of so MANY.
    I agree with Concernicus Jones that “EDD should be led by someone with a business degree and private-sector management experience,” not an appointee who appears to be an activist for the Gov Gav agenda of non-transparency, very bad decision-making, favors for friends, and an all-around appearance of corruption. Will we ever see common-sense, competence, and an earnest desire to serve the people in our leadership again? Looks like we won’t, at least not as long as this crowd is in power.

    1. As (almost) always in State Government, those who caused the chaos escape unscathed. I worked at the EDD prior to all the fraud headlines and tried to bring in fraud detection software that had proven the fact there was incredible amounts of fraud happening in CA’s EDD. Then Director Patrick Henning wanted nothing to do with it. He was aware of the problems yet did nothing. The San Diego Tribune wrote a spot on article (Dec 21, 2020) on just this topic, though Henning claimed the 1 million price tag was just too much… Really, to save over 20 Billion in fraud – yes, short sighted at best. Sharon Hilliard bore the brunt of Patrick’s poor decision making but you hear nothing of the man who willfully gave billions away and then snuck out over night.

  3. Anybody else see a distinct FAILURE OF LEADERSHIP in this state?
    This moron Governor of ours just replaces failure after failure and OUR tax dollars are being STOLEN out from under our noses and Governor Hairgel just replaces one after the other with dipwads like this recently “retired” individual who likely rides off into the sunset with a nice fat CA pension for life….

  4. just imagine this state is on the cusp of running SINGLE PAYER system down our throats, yet they as a state are failing everywhere. The control they have over the people with Single payer will be NAZI-like and grow more and more controlling as years go on. You will not be in control over your own body – they will OWN IT and they are already trying to own your children without having to deal with the problems at home

  5. Who thought it was a good idea to appoint Saenz someone in their seventies to shake things up at EDD? Things have only gotten worse much worse at EDD in the last year. You have no fruad if you freeze benefits, and honest people starve. EDD needs to be destroyed and rebuilt.

  6. I fractured my spine a few months back. I am currently on SDI and EDD has helped me greatly. But I noticed right away something wasnt right. I was paid way to much and then required to repay it and then received another check for way to much. Its been this way for a while, a roller coaster with the odor of fraud in the air. Im new to the EDD problems and just now learning what has been happening. But it seems the fraud isnt just with the applicants.

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