The California Employment Development Department has stopped accepting new unemployment claims for two weeks in order to give itself time to update its systems and deal with a staggering backlog of claims.
The EDD has been overwhelmed by a surge in unemployment claims because of the COVID-19 pandemic, revealing serious issues within the agency.
"My office and every legislative office in the state has experienced an unprecedented number of constituents who have needed desperate help in interacting with the EDD,” said Assemblyman David Chiu who represents San Francisco and sits on the committee overseeing the EDD. “There have been literally hundreds of thousands of constituents who have been calling dozens of times without a response. And it’s been incredibly frustrating.”
While the agency has responded to millions of unemployment claims, the system was so backlogged that the wait time just to get a call back from the agency was four to six weeks.
Gov. Newsom appointed a task force back in July to address the issue and their report is now in, recommending that the agency stop accepting applications until Oct. 5 in order to give itself time to implement new technology and reduce the backlog.
The department will also install ID verification technology and implement to prevent fraud and help clear the backlog.
While it may seem counterintuitive, the agency will also temporarily freeze hiring; the task force found that senior employees are spending too much time training new employees when they could be addressing complicated cases.
Kevin Kiley of Rocklin told KCBS Radio that’s all well and good, but government agencies need to be more efficient.
“We just need to adopt much more of a customer service type mentality,” Kiley said. “I mean, our state bureaucracy doesn’t run anything like well-run businesses do. It doesn’t run anything like well-run nonprofits do.”
The agency says the freeze will not impact benefit payments for people who are already in the system, and will help them process new claims more quickly.