Jobless claims highlight problems

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Marie Waldron
Marie Waldron. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Assemblymember Marie Waldron, Special to Valley News

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown millions out of work and created massive problems at California’s Employment Development Department, the agency empowered to provide unemployment insurance to laid-off workers.

Between March and May, EDD experienced a 3,400% increase in claims compared to January/February. From March 8 to July 18, EDD processed 8.7 million claims, including 6.8 million standard unemployment insurance claims and 1.4 million pandemic unemployment assistance claims. The agency has paid out $49.7 billion in benefits, and reports that 94% of requests for assistance have been approved.

These numbers are impressive, but mask huge problems. The state’s 120 legislative offices often become the last resort for people unable to contact EDD or to get anything resembling a timely response to repeated emails, phone calls and faxes. EDD receives about 700 cases weekly from legislative offices, and even though the number of staff dedicated to handling these requests increased from one to 93, it can still take a month or more to get a reply to our inquiries. It is unacceptable.

Recently, the governor announced a series of actions aimed at transforming EDD, modernizing technology and improving communications to ensure EDD prioritizes the oldest claims so that badly needed unemployment insurance benefits get to unemployed Californians who still must pay their bills.

I have long called for modernization and improved technology in state agencies. And based on our experience dealing with just under 1,000 EDD inquiries from constituents since mid-March, my office has been working as a liaison from our whole caucus to EDD and the Department of Labor to seek solutions that result in faster responses and fewer glitches.

California’s workers are hurting and EDD has not been up to the challenge. It must change, now.

Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido, represents the 75th Assembly District in the California Legislature, which includes the communities of Bonsall, Escondido, Fallbrook, Hidden Meadows, Pala, Palomar Mountain, Pauma Valley, Rainbow, San Marcos, Temecula, Valley Center and Vista.