On Wednesday, two California State Senators from opposing political parties implored Gov. Gavin Newsom to have the Employment Development Department remain open around the clock to get through the large backlog of filings it has accrued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
A 24/7 EDD order request for the Governor
In a letter, Senators Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) and Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) asked the governor to issue an Executive Order to require the EDD stay open throughout the night. They also asked for phone assistance to be available and for the EDD to be fully staffed for 24 hours a day, every day of the week.
The EDD has faced criticism for having too many open cases with long delays in responses, and in some cases, filers not hearing back or receiving benefits for many months.
Earlier this month, Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) even announced that he wants an EDD audit after finding out that 75% of calls to the EDD don’t go through. The EDD went on a massive hiring spree in early April to deal with the large influx of unemployment filings due to the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic boosting the unemployment rate above 16%. While many people have now been trained, and a further effort to hire 4,000 more people and update their systems is now underway to deal with the influx of people trying to receive benefits, hundreds of thousands of Californians need or will need assistance.
“While wearing masks, hand-washing and avoiding crowds may help us re-flatten the curve, nothing short of rectifying the backlog at EDD will help the millions of unemployed Californians struggling to put food on the table while waiting for their money to come through. ‘The check’s in the mail’ just doesn’t cut it in these unprecedented times,” read the letter from the Senators to Governor Newsom.
“As an emergency work around to the failed IT systems at EDD, we respectfully request that you issue an Executive Order to keep EDD phone lines and operations open and fully staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until this backlog is addressed. Your recent orders to re-close much of the state will further exacerbate EDD’s failure to address its current workload and we fear, without drastic actions, the agency will continue to fall further and further behind.”
“Each of our offices has hundreds of unemployment related constituent case files open as a result of EDD’s failure to answer the phone, process a claim, reinstate a claim accidentally dropped and a host of other heartbreaking issues. This is a monumental failure of government when Californians need it most.”
“While Californians struggle to make ends meet, the very least government can do is put in the man hours necessary to straighten this out.”
A state and constituent need
Senator Wilk and Senator Hurtado wrote the letter not only to address the EDD backlog but also in response to many constituents and citizens who have written about the delays and backlog at the EDD.
“When our constituents can’t feed their families or keep roofs over their heads because EDD has failed to process months-old unemployment claims, it is not a political issue, it is a crisis,” said Senator Wilk. “California is in a crisis and without drastic actions, the situation at EDD will only continue to deteriorate, especially if the state continues on the trajectory of opening and closing businesses in response to the pandemic. If EDD doesn’t clear this up quickly people will end up out of their homes and in the streets.”
Senator Hurtado also noted of the need to address the EDD problem.
“The COVID pandemic has created unprecedented unemployment throughout the state. While the statewide average sits around 15%, parts of the southern central valley is upward of 24%,” added Senator Hurtado. “To address this extraordinary time in the pandemic we have no choice but to provide unfettered access to help process claims.”
In an interview with the California Globe, an EDD worker agreed with need for the EDD to remain open longer.
“We’re far behind,” explained “Mary,” who has worked at the EDD for almost 10 years. “We’re getting less requests in, but we’re still swamped because we need to verify all of these claims too.”
“I’m not saying that every EDD employee would like the new system, but there are many who would work nights. Some have been suggesting to do that because of our call-in hours to accommodate people who may be working part-time during the day or can only have free time to call at certain hours.”
“There’s a need here, and EDD employees are some of the best around. We’re just limited in what we can do now. That’s the real issue.”
As of Thursday, the Governor’s office has yet to respond to the letter.
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