10.8.20 Big challenges ahead for unemployment department

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:

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a Laguna Beach Democrat, countered Hilliard’s assertion in previous hearings that backlogged claims were due to outdated technology and a lack of staffing.

  • Petrie-Norris: “The strike team report points out that this backlog is due not to outdated technology, but to operational shortcomings.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.”

The department still had a backlog of 1.57 million unresolved claims as of Sept. 30, the most recent date for which data are available.