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EDD interview wait times stretch 6 months, department launches outbound calls

California's Employment Development Department is making some changes as people wait months for an interview related to their unemployment benefits.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California’s Employment Development Department [EDD] has launched a new program to reach out to claimants in hopes of better controlling its months-long wait time for interviews.

The EDD said the backup for interviews has now reached up to 26 weeks. Reasons for interviews include clarification about why a person left a job and instances where EDD’s wage records do not match the information provided by a claimant.

EDD’s dashboard shows nearly 139,000 people still stuck in the backlog as of the last available report.

To help with the backlog, EDD has started a program to call claimants in cases where a conversation could resolve the issue, rather than waiting for a formal determination interview. Here is how the EDD said the system will work:

Agents will attempt to contact a customer to clarify an eligibility issue from  8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday. Customers will see “ST OF CA EDD” of “800 300 5616” as the caller identification.

If the customer does not answer the call, agents will leave a message advising that another call will be made in the next 24 hours. If the customer is again not available, EDD will leave a second message with a call-back telephone number and individualized verification code that the specific customer can use to reach an agent.

The EDD said it has also added more vendor staff and is training additional workers to help with the most common issues requiring interviews.

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Starting in July, the EDD began conditionally paying people who had been waiting more than two weeks for payment. The change meant that people could get the benefits they needed more quickly, while EDD made a determination that they were eligible.  EDD said hundreds of thousands of people have been paid under the program but are still waiting for an eligibility determination.

WATCH MORE: EDD agrees to pay pending unemployment claims | Daniela Urban explains 'conditional pay'