California EDD still awash in backlogged claims

Though jobs in California are growing at a faster rate than the nation, the hangover from the still ongoing pandemic is still very much with us.

The state lost 2.7 million jobs during the pandemic and still needs to add about 1 million to make up for the losses. 

According to the Center for Jobs and the Economy, California's initial unemployment claims, accounted for 22% of the nation's claims. That showed the state was being hit hard, because it had 22% of the jobless claims, but only 12% of the national labor force. 

California jobless claims are at their highest level since April.

Though Golden State jobs are growing faster than the nation, roughly a million California job openings are going unfilled and layoffs are once again rising. 

"Running well above other states and well above the national average," said labor lawyer and former EDD Director Michael Bernick.

The Employment Development Department has a notorious claims backlog that rose almost 9% to more than 192,000 jobless Californians who have waited three or more weeks to get paid.

One of them, Li Li Clever. has been waiting since April. 

"I've e-mailed them, you know, through their web site. I've called every conceivable number I can get my hands on," said Clever. 

EDD call centers still do not answer almost a third of their calls and callers need to make and average of 10 calls just to get through as Li Li ultimately did, 

"That's the one I waited for five and a half hours and they promised it was one the way. They said I've done everything that's necessary and then it never arrived," said Clever.

(There is a GoFundMe that is collecting donations to help Clever with her living expenses.)

So far into the pandemic, the state has now paid out nearly $175 billion. 

"That dwarfs the number of payments during the Great Recession," said Mr. Bernick. 

But, Li Li is still waiting and laments, "It's the not knowing but even worse is the lying; being lied to is the most distressing."

The state has already run up a $20 billion debt to Uncle Sam to make sure claimants got paid; money that will have to be paid back. 

"After previous recessions, the state increased the rate that employers were paying it in terms of for payroll taxes," said Bernick.

Workforce boards across the state say they have yet to see a meaningful uptick in jobseekers, even though Federal unemployment benefits expired early this month.