LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Four million people have filed for unemployment in California in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and many of them have been frustrated by long waits while calling into the state hotline for help.

A phone worker for the California Employment Development Department who spoke with CBS Los Angeles on the condition of anonymity said the system was “not working right now.”

Video sent to news organizations by the EDD shows workers in the office on phones, handling paperwork and assisting people with unemployment claims — many who have not had appreciable income in months.

“They’re begging, they’re crying, they’re cursing,” the worker said of the callers.

But the reality of the situation is much different, according to the phone worker. He said many of the people who answer phone calls for the EDD work from home, sitting in front of computer screens with chatrooms that link the individual agents to their supervisors.

And as those agents try to help millions of Californians trying to get their unemployment benefits, the worker said they are also asking their supervisors for guidance because they initially only receive one day of training.

“I know they just hired a whole bunch of new agents,” the worker said. “And they get a phone call, and they don’t know what to do. They ask the supervisor and they hope that the supervisor actually responds to the chatroom.”

According to chatroom logs shared with CBS Los Angeles, some of the questions showed that workers were not even sure how to use the basic system.

“Is there a redial feature,” one agent asked. “I clicked to take off hold and either they hung up or I somehow hung them up.”

Other agents were asking if the unemployed workers they were talking with were eligible for benefits, if they should use the same pin as a debit card or whether a claim review should be done.

One agent even called out other phone agents, writing in all caps:


When asked about whether agents were lying to workers, the phone worker said there was “a lot of that going on.”

The state said because of record unemployment and low staffing, the department has had to bring in almost 5,000 temporary employees to handle the increase in volume, likening the process to building a plane in midair.

Comments (7)
  1. kulwant kaur says:

    I apply Month of April ,I get laid off covid-19, I did apply on line some one help me i get only one payment after I don’t recived any thighs, keep calling no answers,keep hanging up, busy. and also I can’t login on iine. no money to servive. very hard,keep calling no answers.I don’t what to do.I am also not on line person.i need personal halp.

  2. Jay-J says:

    I have been trying to call every number i can find. over 50 calls spanning 3 weeks. Ive tried the automated chat help, and still can not get my EDD Customer Account number to continue. I recieved a appreoval, a debit card and a payment for 2 weeks that I certified via paper form and mailed it back in.. but since then no more paers showed, I cant reach anyone to get the account number to log in and certify and no number, or email, or anything works to get the info I need. HELP!

  3. Kim says:

    Excellent start at exposing the harmful stalling and lying behavior of EDD! Please follow up on this report with the Labor Workforce Development Agency, who oversees EDD. Julie Su is the LWDA boss. Californians deserve answers about these scandalous delays in our pandemic unemployment assistance, and continuing this story will likely draw millions of viewers to you as well!

  4. Kelly Robertson says:

    I’m a Federal Employee, sent home on reduced work hours on 3/23. I filed on 3/25 and was denied bc they said I made too much money for my pension. I’m a retired military Veteran – we get a retirement, hard-earned for me – I get a retirement, not a pension. I’m in month four and have yet to be able to speak to a human –the 800# is very frustrating. It’s 7/7 now and have been calling since 8am to now, noon. I get all the way to waiting for a representative and then the recording comes on to tell me they are too busy and to call back. The prompts are ridiculous the customer service is non-existent — about the same as IRS or DMV. It’s 2020 in America! Unbelievable. Living off my 401K at a great cost.

  5. lopez says:

    I can’t get a job until I get my backdated payments, I lost my saving supporting my household I need that money, my husband got a job offer in TX and we moved, all my paperwork arrived almost on the same day I moved out and I needed to send my identity confirmation, I printed a letter and sent a lot of different paperwork on the list, in case one of them was rejected, and I can’t reach them to know if it was accepted, I can’t certify because the date on my application is wrong because I was too literal with the information they requested,but I can’t fix ANYTHING until my ID is verified and I can’t get a job thanks to their hours

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