SAN FRANCISCO - It appears that a growing number of beleaguered and disillusioned Employment Development Department workers are hanging up their headphones and walking away in droves.
In struggling to get money into claimant's hands, EDD's process is driving people nuts on both sides of the website.
When the Trump administration initiated the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, the goal was to provide money to freelancers and other gig workers not covered by state unemployment.
Like every state unemployment agency, EDD was immediately inundated with a tidal wave of federal PUA claims.
"It's protocols, particularly its anti-fraud protocols, were very, very poorly put together," said labor lawyer and former EDD Director Michael Bernick.
Since Last March, in an effort to provide better, speedier service, the EDD has hired about 4,900 new employees and now has 11,200 employees. Almost all of them work from home.
"This is a system that takes some time to get up to speed to really learn the rules and lean the protocols," said Mr. Bernick.
During that same period, nearly 1,600 employees have left the EDD, 14% of it's workforce; some through normal attrition.
Also taking a toll, relentless, overwheming caseloads and harsh public and client criticism, especially for new folks working at home.
"EDD, in many ways, this past years has replaced the Department of Motor Vehicles as the most criticized state departments," said Bernick.
In a Thursday teleconference, yet another new EDD director said she's hiring 900 new employees. She then repeated the same mantra frustrated claimants have heard for months.
"We are improving our ability to make timely decisions about potentially fraudulent claims," said EDD Director Rita Saenz.
After months of uninterrupted payments, freelance writer Stacey Thompson was cut off cold turkey in December. "I did get something I think it was January 4th or around that time it was the fraud emails that everybody had been getting," said Ms. Thompson.
But, even after using EDD's new ID system to submit documents proving her identity, it has been to no avail.
One EDD whistleblower said, "We have one job which is to help people out who are unemployed and we're failing at that mission."
So, far, California alone has paid out as much as $31 billion to crooks.
Link: Stacey's GoFundMe for emergency funds while waiting for EDD funds.