OAKLAND, Calif. - The director of California’s Employment Development Department is stepping down, a little more than a year after she was hired to clean up the embattled department.
Rita Saenz announced her resignation to staff Friday in an email and said Gov. Gavin Newsom has appointed a new director who will be sworn in on Tuesday.
Saenz said Nancy Farias, currently chief deputy director of external affairs, legislation and policy will be taking over.
"This year has been an eventful one, following a just as eventful year before," Saenz told EDD employees. "During this time I have had the privilege to work with you a brilliant and dedicated staff. It has been such a pleasure."
With numerous government leadership roles spanning decades, Saenz was appointed to fix systemic issues, outdated technology and implement safeguards to prevent fraud.
Since the pandemic began, more than $20 billion of unemployment insurance checks are suspected to have been cashed in by crooks.
This latest shakeup at the EDD follows numerous complaints from Californians about problems within the agency and rampant fraud.
Saenz admitted to the department facing difficulties but expressed her confidence in her successor, Farias.
"She has worked tirelessly during these last 16 months alongside everyone else, leading, strategizing, and initiating new strategies. She [Farias] has had a major hand in the transformations that are now taking place at EDD, and will continue to see them through."
Saenz will resume her role as a commissioner on the California Commission on Aging, according to a news release from the governor's office.
In his statement, Newsom said Saenz faced unprecedented challenges as she took the helm at EDD during the pandemic. "With her steadfast leadership and dedication to public service, Director Saenz spearheaded important reforms at the Department to better serve working Californians, prevent fraud and hold bad actors to account," the statement read in part.
Farias, 49, of Sacramento, will begin serving as director effective Feb. 1.