LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The California Employment Development Department was hit with a tidal wave of jobless benefits claim when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the state’s economy.
In total, nearly 9 million California residents filed for unemployment benefits.
And Gov. Gavin Newsom has continually pledged to improve the system, but a new report Wednesday showed massive problems continue to plague the overwhelmed department, including nearly one million applications that have not been processed because the state is requesting more information from people before approving them.
“I probably called EDD 8,000 times,” Rose Puccio, a laid off worker from Woodland Hills, said. “For real, 8,000 times.”
Puccio said she filed for benefits after being laid off from her sales job at a luxury shoe company back in March. She just received her benefits two weeks ago.
“Every time I got through, nobody could help me or I needed to talk to somebody else, but they couldn’t transfer me, or if they did transfer me, it went to dead silence,” she said. “I found the issue. My employer had the wrong social security number.
CBS Los Angeles has been flooded with complaints from people like Puccio who said they have been waiting for months for their unemployment benefits. State and local officials have also been deluged with calls. And, under mounting pressure, the governor’s office has launched what its called a strike team to handle to mountain of unprocessed claims.
The announcement was made after response times took a dive.
Back in March, 88% of all claims were cleaned within 14 days. But that number dropped to 52% of claims being approved within 14 days in June.
“What the whistleblowers are saying is that they are being set up to fail,” Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, said.
Patterson said he was fighting for an audit of EDD and believed that the governor was only launching the so-called strike team because response times had been an unmitigated disaster.
“I’m tired of the excuses that say, ‘We just had this huge deluge,'” Patterson said. “They were not prepared for even a slight uptick, let alone a deluge because they simply had not even gotten the technology right as a result of the previous audit.”
So many California residents have complained to their state lawmakers that the assembly has scheduled a special hearing Thursday to investigate the EDD.