LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — In the past three months, the California Employment Development Department has paid out $37.5 billion in unemployment benefits — but a number of people are still waiting to be paid, prompting a lawmaker to call for an audit of the department.
Rosa Castillo, who was a Lyft driver until the increasing risk and lack of rides forced her into unemployment in late March, is one of those still waiting.
“Very frustrating,” she said. “I feel like I’m at a dead end.”
Castillo is a single mom with a teenage son. She said she has applied four times for unemployment.
“So I have really nothing to survive on,” she said.
And her story is not unique — everyone who has contacted CBS Los Angeles for help getting their benefits said they cannot get anyone on the phone to talk about their claims.
“I just don’t feel like there’s anyone that’s ever going to answer,” Charmaine Tuilefano said.
Tuilefano said she has also applied for unemployment multiple times since she was laid off and still hasn’t received her benefits.
“But after waiting three weeks, then a month, then two then three then four, and still with no answer,” she said. “It’s really kind of hopeless.”
And phone data compiled by California State Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) backs up the women’s claims. Out of 1.5 million calls placed to EDD in one week of May — 600,000 of which were unique calls — only 150,000 people were able to speak with a person at EDD.
“And that boils down to a 25% answer rate which is absolutely unacceptable,” Patterson said.
In June, Patterson called for an audit of the department in a sternly-written letter.
“We need to do two things at the same time,” he said. “We need to get the attention of EDD to clean up their act now, but we also are going to have to get the auditors involved so that we can fix the longterm problems.”
Patterson said that a 2011 audit of EDD found that the department “failed to meet acceptable performance levels.”
“From 2011 to this very day, the EDD is still ‘planning’ to get their technology is order.”
The EDD said in a statement that representatives were working seven days per week to expand the department’s capacity to process claims and was hiring 4,000 additional representatives. The department also said it was enhancing its technology.
CBS Los Angeles also asked the department to look into claims filed by Castillo and Tuilefano.