Legislators demand answers from EDD, Bank of America over unemployment cases

An assembly subcommittee overseeing the Employment Development Department, got an earful when EDD went so far as to claim that its old backlog has been cleared up. And Bank of America said, any problems with cancelled EDD EBT cards is basically the EDD's fault.

So, the search for the truth remains elusive.                                

A letter to Bank of America's CEO, written by San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting and countersigned by 58 other Senate and Assembly members, is at the root of the Budget Subcommittee where B of A was called on the carpet.

These are not just legislators anymore. "All state representatives and senators have become unemployment experts this year because they've heard from so many of their constituents about what's going on," said  Michelle Evermore of the National Employment Law Project. The legislators want answers from both the EDD and Bank of America.

The EDD claimed that all of the one million plus backlogged cases is now cleared, but the EDD's website says the backlog is 941,000; apparently a whole new backlog.

There was a lot of finger pointing at EDD, Bank of America the Trump administration and even claimants who EDD said failed to keep updating their status with EDD.

Bank of America, citing fraud, said it has done nothing wrong in freezing EBT cards to hundreds of thousands.

"We continue to work to unfreezing the legitimate claimants in that pool. Beyond that, I really have nothing to add," said Bank of America executive Faiz Ahmed. When pushed, the bank executive said it has added thousands of call center employees giving callers an average wait time of one minute.

"That absolutely has not been my experience with my constituents," said Assemblyman Phil Ting, (D) San Francisco. 

Back in the real world, one can feel the anger and despair from those cut off and sometimes cleaned out by the EDD and its agent, Bank of America.

"Bank of America told me we will not be responsible for the money that was taken out of my account," said unemployed EDD claimant JR Solorzano who added, "They took out around like $8,000 from my account. EDD keeps telling me that they don't have nothing to do with it; that that's all Bank of America."

Ariel Sides was flat cut off in July over ID issues and began the arduous task of trying to prove to EDD she was not a fraudster.

"I sent in my ID verification documents a total of six times, twice by certified mail," said Ms. Sides. Six months later, she was restored, but at $170 a week less with no reason given. "I've called Gavin Newsom's office. I've been hung up on by both EDD and the Governor's office. It's just unacceptable," said Sides.

This will likely have political consequences. "So, there are a lot of people organizing in California around this and the more people you have working with you to get something, the easier it is to get it," said the National Employment Law Project’s Evermore. 

Those groups often result in higher political activity, often aimed at public officials for not delivering benefits in a timely manner.

Claimant Solorzano sees it this way, "They're actually just like playing with everybody's money, emotions, feelings, like problems, everything." 

What is clear: the EDD remains badly broken, B of A basically points the finger at EDD and the beat and the backlog goes on.