LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Some Californians say they have growing concerns and worries about when their unemployment benefits will kick in.
The frustration comes as the state’s Employment Development Department has been dealing with an influx of requests, and the result of that has been Americans struggling financially during this pandemic.
Audrey Wolff, who works in the entertainment industry, lost her job in March and says she hasn’t received any unemployment benefits since then.
“I have called daily, about 1,104 times per day,” Wolff said. “There are thousands of people that applied the same time as me, middle of March, that still have received nothing, have gotten no contact from them, haven’t been able to get through on the phones.”
California lawmakers are hearing the concerns coming from all across the state, and they’re speaking out.
Sixty-one officials — Democrats and Republicans — wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom demanding action to clear the EDD’s backlog of over one million cases.
“As you know the caseload has built and we’ve been so many more weeks into it we really felt like now was the time to apply some additional pressure,” said 38th District Assemblywoman Christy Smith.
Some of the demands in the letter were to immediately approve all backlogged cases, prohibit call center workers to hang up on callers, start auto-call back system if lines are clogged, and move the EDD system — which Newsom has called outdated — to the cloud.
“We are the state of California where technology is thriving—we’re the birthplace—we have Silicon Valley and yet we can’t figure out our technology? I mean our technological infrastructure? That’s just…It’s unacceptable,” said State Sen. Ling Ling Chang.
The letter from lawmakers comes a week after the governor announced a strike team to reform the unemployment system.
“We need transparency. We need to see what they’re doing wrong. All we’re getting are just runaround answers,” Chang said.
Some lawmakers say the EDD backlog is causing issues that go far beyond political moves and that it’s affecting the livelihood of many Californians, and that it needs to be cleared up right away.
“We know what real peril these people are in—you can hear it in their voice. You know they are worried about paying rent and putting food on the table,” Smith said. “It’s time for us all to come together and speak on behalf of Californians and do the right thing.”
The governor’s office said it is fully committed to getting California workers their benefits and they pointed to the more than nine million claims that have already been processed and the $55.1 billion that has been paid out. They said they will continue to work with the legislature on the issue.