1.57 million claims unresolved
California’s unemployment department is in the hot seat — again.
Lawmakers ripped into the besieged agency in a Wednesday oversight hearing, exposing the breadth of challenges facing the Employment Development Department as it resumes accepting claims after a two-week reset period that ended Monday. During those two weeks, the department held off at least 136,000 new claims to give it time to implement a new ID-verification tool and address a backlog of nearly 1.6 million claims. Here’s a look at some of the main problems brought up in the hearing:
- The new ID-verification tool, ID.me, was supposed to automatically verify 91% of claims — a significant increase from EDD’s current rate of 60%. But a progress report released Wednesday found that ID.me automatically verified only 64% of applicants, and some waited more than an hour to reach ID.me’s call center.
- EDD has made progress on only 58 of the 111 recommendations from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s strike team.
- Fraud remains a major concern. EDD Director Sharon Hilliard said there are 75 “active investigations” into fraud, but said she doesn’t know the exact number of cases or how much money was fraudulently paid. Meanwhile, some legitimate claimants are getting tangled up in fraud prevention efforts and can’t access payments.
Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris, a Laguna Beach Democrat, countered Hilliard’s assertion in previous hearings that backlogged claims were due to outdated technology and a lack of staffing.
- Petrie-Norris: “The strike team report points out that this backlog is due not to outdated technology, but to operational shortcomings. … And in terms of the hiring of a few thousands (sic) of new staff members, the strike team report points out that that was not only just a total waste of taxpayer dollars, but … ultimately made things even worse.”
- Hilliard: “We do need all these people and we’ve just moved them to different areas of responsibility until such time we get through the backlog and we can continue to train them.”