Sep 28, 2020
California officials are now saying that the state’s unemployment agency, EDD (Employment Development Department), will not be able to clear the state’s huge backlog of unemployment claims before the end of January 2021. That’s FOUR months later than what Governor Gavin Newsom had set as a “target” back in July.
Not only has the backlog not been eliminated—it has in fact increased a lot since July, from 1 million claims to 1.6 million claims. In other words, unpaid unemployment claims in California have lately been increasing at a rate of about 10,000 a day.
On October 5 a new electronic ID verification system is supposed to kick in. Until now, the EDD has been doing ID verifications manually. When claims get stuck in that phase of the process (which, officials say, happens with about 40% of claims), it takes months to resolve the problem. Officials say the new electronic system will greatly speed up the process for new claims.
But this will not help the 1.6 million workers waiting for their payments to begin. The new system will not even work retroactively for claims already filed.
Officials excuse the backlog as a problem of technology—the EDD’s computers are decades old and severely outdated. But it is also a staffing problem: there are not enough agents working on processing the claims that are coming in; not even close.
For both problems, state officials are to blame: They are the ones who have cut the budget and have left the EDD lacking the technology needed by millions of unemployed California workers.