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EDD Director Sharon Hilliard (Photo: Youtube)

The Fallout of EDD Director Sharon Hilliard’s Resignation

Fraud cases are also still rampant

By Evan Symon, November 2, 2020 8:20 pm

Over the weekend, Employment Development Department Director Sharon Hilliard resigned, opening up the likelihood of more extreme changes at the EDD next year.

The EDD has been through a tumultuous year and has put the usually low-key organization in the national and even international spotlight several times since March.

In February, Hilliard became Director of the EDD, having been with the EDD since 1983, and Deputy Director since 2013.

The next month, COVID-19 swept through the U.S. and California, with state’s governors closing many businesses in the span of a few days, causing a sudden rise of mass unemployment.

Within 3 weeks, over 2 million new unemployment claims had been filed in California, overburdening the EDD and forcing them to rush through claims and hire additional help. However, as the number of new claims rose, the EDD fell behind on approving claims. By the summer, investigations found that many claims were months behind and that outdated methods, programs, and equipment were still being used to manage the influx.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

This induced GOP lawmakers in Sacramento, led by Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) to call for an audit of the entire Department in July. However, only days before the audit was to take place, Democratic legislators cancelled the meeting, with Governor Gavin Newsom instead forming a “strike team” to evaluate what the problems were in the EDD.

Meanwhile, fraud cases began to significantly rise in the next few months, including 87 arrests in Beverly Hills for using fraudulent EDD. By the time the strike team released its finding in September, the EDD still had open cases dating back to March, with an even larger amount of cases the agency still hadn’t gone through. The strike team announced that there were problems in the numerous outdated and mail-oriented systems the EDD used. This forced the EDD to stop all incoming cases for two weeks earlier this month in order to update their system, creating an even larger backlog while also announcing that all open claims would not be resolved until 2021.

Despite the changes, fraud cases continued to climb, forcing banks including Bank of America to freeze 350,000 Californian accounts as they were investigated.

When Hilliard left on Friday, she left behind an agency still sifting through a giant backlog that had only been partially improved by new upgrades that had actually hurt tens of thousands of people for several weeks. Hundreds of thousands of Californians have also been unable to receive benefits because of her policy decisions, making many miss rent payments, run out of money, and be hurt more than they would have under a normal claim response.

Fraud cases are also still rampant, partially due to policies including not having EDD employees look more thoroughly into claims.

Positive and negative reaction to Hilliard’s resignation

“The EDD could have done so much better,” “Mary,” an EDD employee, told the Globe. “All the changes they are making now are things that we, as employees, have been telling them for years, but they refused to implement. In February, we thought Hilliard would make these changes, before COVID-19, but she didn’t, and you’ve seen what happened.

“It would have still been a mess, but we would have been better off. It took a disaster like COVID-19 to change things up, and that was only after the Governor had a special team come see how things were done.”

“There’s a lot of people at fault here, but by far the person with the lion’s share is Hilliard. And now she’s walking away before all the remaining claims have been processed.”

Hilliard will remain Director until December 31st. In the meantime, she has released statements on her departure, even noting that it is now on the “path to success”.

“This past year I have been committed to seeing the EDD through the most challenging times in the Department’s history, but I believe I can now retire knowing that the EDD is on a great path to success,” Hilliard said in a memo announcing her retirement. “Although this year has come with many challenges, we have accomplished more than we ever thought possible providing additional enhancements to our customers and staff. I am grateful to all of you who made personal, tireless sacrifices to make it possible.”

“It has been my privilege to be part of the Employment Development Department team since the day I walked into the EDD building over 37 years ago. At that time I was 19 years old and looking back I could not have imagined how fortunate it would be to work with so many caring, strong, and professional people determined to provide the best services possible to the citizens of California. It is with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement as of December 31, 2020.”

Other Californian leaders also remarked positively about her brief tenure.

“I am grateful for Sharon’s service and willingness to step into the role of director just before the pandemic. She has helped pave the path for EDD to reset its culture and modernize the system at this critical time,” said California Labor and Workforce Development Agency Secretary Julie A. Su in a statement on Saturday. “This has been a challenging time for the people of California and Sharon and her team have put in the work during this time of unprecedented demand.”

However, many have remained critical of Hilliard’s tenure.

“If she was so successful, then why did she quit 10 months in,” questioned “Henry,” an EDD employee, in an interview with the Globe. “She didn’t pave the wave or do anything. She was forced to change all the systems here and didn’t do anything for the employees. In the thick of it, back in March and April and May, we were running ragged there because of how much time we spent fielding calls from people about their unemployment. She did nothing to help us out, or make it easier for those who needed it, until she was essentially forced to.”

“It doesn’t make you feel great.”

With fraud cases still being sorted out and unemployment claims still being processed until next year, Hilliard leaves a large hole  at the EDD, whose future depends on new leadership from the third person to have held the position there within a year.

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13 thoughts on “The Fallout of EDD Director Sharon Hilliard’s Resignation

  1. At 19 Sharon Hilliard was hired by her father who was a long time EDD manager (41 years at the EDD). This EDD generational nepotism policy has realized management hiring, and supporting the hiring, of family and friends of management for decades resulting in super incompetent and unqualified managers throughout the EDD. Almost all management from the top (Ms. Hilliard) to the first-line management are involved in this generational nepotism. Speaking of fraud, I’m curious if someone hired via nepotism into state government has perpetrated fraud on the taxpayers? Then if for the entire time they worked for state government, if their salary and benefits earned would be considered assets gained via fraud. If so, someone who was hired via nepotism who realized an almost four decade paycheck and benefits would have, in effect, likely felony fraudulently gained millions of taxpayer dollars (not to mention the enormous cost to taxpayers of the incompetent management running the EDD because of the generational nepotism policy). Perhaps this should be looked into, too?

  2. She did not resign. She was fired and offered an opportunity to announce that she resigned. She was obviously in way over her head.

  3. I have an EDD claim, I live out my car. I need to receive my mail at general delivery, EDD considers it fraud; EDD CONSIDERS BEING HOMELESS FRAUDULENT! It took me forever to get any info. I need to call the Accountability dept, 8am to noon, M-F. I have called those people HUNDREDS OF TIMES, more than ALL THE CALLS I have probably made in the last 5 YEARS. They hang up on me every single time. So I am being accused of a FELONY, they could press charges and ruin my life. However, I do not have the means to contest criminal accusations, and IT HAS BEEN 6 WEEKS with no information. That violates my 4th and 6th amendment rights.

    1. I’ve been waiting for a payment since July and I still haven’t received one I’m a single mother and will soon face eviction if I don’t get my money from them soon so I can pay my bills I said on the phone on hold for over four and a half hours almost every day for over two months now

  4. Its not just unemployment, i have a disability claim that they froze and with holding over $5000 from me. No one can help me and emoloyees have been lying to me when I get a hold of someone. Are there any attorneys you know willing to try and sue them? I need help.

    1. Theyre all currently scared for retaliation by the state board. I havent been paid since march 1st and they keep giving me a run around even though i have a judge order.

  5. I’ve actually found EDD to be OK – they’re going off really really old software programs, but if you look at some of the “upgrades” at UC or at the Dept of Finance, I think they were right to be weary of investing in a major change. I don’t think it’s Hilliard’s fault that a huge global intelligence operation hit the department – this whole ‘crisis’ is clearly pre-planned. That said, I would have welcomed a Bureau of State Audits report into EDD because I think it would have been far more transparent to the public than a “strike team.”

  6. Why are taxpayers giving her a retirement? Sharon Hilliard failed over and over. Apparently, she was in a position that she should not have had in the 1st place. This damaged that has cost the taxpayers 100 of millions for a system that is inadequate. What is going to be done to resolve? We can’t let this go. Raise our taxes for this type of performance is unacceptable for a taxpayer. Is this what you do, fail and retire in America? No, we own up and fix the problem. COVID 19 has brought out a lot of government errors. Be careful who you vote for in the future. Do your homework.

  7. I want to know if Sharon Hilliard, was the person who directed BofA to close/freeze all those debit cards. The EDD needs to stop telling everyone that the fault lies with BofA. That request/directive was initiated within the EDD. BofA only freezes accounts with suspicious TRANSACTIONS, money going OUT. The EDD only deals with DEPOSITS., money coming IN. There is NO system in place to handle such a reckless action. The STRIKE TEAM’S only input regarding Frozen Accounts is this: REFER ALL CLAIMANT INQUIRIES ABOUT FROZEN/CLOSED DEBIT CARDS TO BOFA. This is insane. BofA has no control over accounts closed at the request/order/demand of the EDD. Somebody did this intentionally, with malice, causing immense suffering, KNOWING IT WAS NOT FIXABLE, leaving claimants without ANYWHERE to turn, and BOFA the powerless scapegoat. How convenient for Ms. Hilliard to have such a tidy way of deflecting any responsibility for this tragedy she orchestrated away from where it firmly belongs.

  8. The agency need to be held accountable. EDD should have required ID upon filing for unemployment not 10 months later while prisoners and dishonest individuals who used the unemployment benefits to their advantage . EDD need to expertise and fix the issues as soon as possible . This is inhuman and cruel. This is causing people go hungry, people are dying and people are suffering.

  9. What horrible person director lier whatever you want to call her firing or allowing her to resign isn’t good enough she got caught lying about freezing bofa accounts trying to blame others for her lack of judgment. Now she all of a sudden retires early while tax paying citizens aren’t allowed to collect benefits still she gets to retire and enjoy hers no firing her isn’t good enough for me take away her benefits as you took away ours during a pandemic

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