Written by Will Seykora
This Thursday the Employment Development Department released figures on the backlog of unresolved claims, and nothing has changed since the beginning of the year. As of May 1st, the backlog has increased to 1.08 million claims, a half-million claim increase from just two weeks prior. This is now the state’s 13th straight week with over 1 million unemployment claims waiting to be finalized.
Yet the EDD call center is doing more harm than good, answering only 6% of over 4 million calls received between April 24th to May 1st. Each person had to call an average of twelve times to get an answer. This is a drastic decrease since March when the call center answered roughly 10.5% of calls with only eight calls needing to be made to reach someone with answers. Every citizen and public official is impacted by this horribly run system with Democrat Assemblymember David Chiu stating “My office has been receiving countless calls from desperate constituents, many of whom are in tears, some of whom are on the brink of homelessness and even some of who have threatened suicide.”
EDD has continued to fail Californians, even before the pandemic many citizens had trouble getting through to the state-run agency. Late last year the agency even shut down all claims as they attempted to solve a $2 billion fraud case. Governor Gavin Newsom had the idea to create a new Department of Better Jobs and Higher Wages within the California labor agency. This notion was quickly rejected by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle due to the number of employees and work hours that would be pulled from working on the current unemployment backlog. Assemblyman Phil Ting said, “Given the multitude of ongoing problems at EDD, now is not the time to transfer numerous employees from the Labor and Workforce Development agency to a newly created department, they’re desperately needed to resolve the tremendous backlog in unemployment claims, prevent fraud and implement job training programs to get people back to work.”
The end of this bureaucratic backlog seems to be nowhere in sight despite California lockdowns set to be lifted on June 15th. With millions being received by the state in funding from the Biden administration, we can only hope that some of this money goes towards fixing a broken unemployment system with loopholes big enough to fit Airforce 1 through.
Photo via Kirby Hamilton, Getty Images