KTVU - California assemblymembers approved an emergency audit of the Employment Development Department Thursday to address backlogged claims, call center operations and “efficiencies” according to a letter from California Assemblymember Rudy Salas to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.
The approval comes amidst widespread complaints from newly unemployed Californians who can’t access unemployment funds during the pandemic, or can’t reach the department’s help line after dogged attempts.
Members of the committee have five days to object to the audit. As the agency has processed 11.9 million claims over the past 6 months to record numbers of jobless people, claims of fraud have surfaced; people have reported receiving strangers’ EDD mail with personal information.
“Six months after the pandemic began in California, constituents confirm that EDD continues to struggle,” Assemblymember Rudy Salas wrote in a letter to the committee. “Hopefully this audit will help provide oversight and help ensure that EDD is doing all it can to help Californians during this difficult time.”
Unemployed people in California who qualify for at least $100 in unemployment insurance benefits per week are scheduled to receive three payments of $300 a week starting on Monday.
Although the EDD said in a release that benefit funding could be increased beyond the amount allotted for three weeks, the agency has not indicated any specifics or confirmed any details about increases.
There are 11 million more unemployed workers than job openings nationwide, according to Heidi Shierholz, senior economist and director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute.
KTVU has been reporting on systemic problems with the EDD’s unemployment benefits since April, and found that many applicants are ultimately unable to reach the EDD when they have an urgent issue, and many others are unable to access any benefits at all. Whether they have been misclassified as an employee, can’t use their Bank of America card, or are subject to penalty weeks, many have described being unable to reach the EDD in a timely fashion.