SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's Employment Development Department, which processes unemployment claims says it won't be accepting new claims for two weeks. EDD announced in a news release that it has to update its systems to be able to process claims faster.
The EDD Strike Team released its report on Saturday about how the department will update the systems to be more modern and how it will improve response times. Thousands of Californias have complained about a lack of response from EDD to process their claims.
As of September 16, the EDD had a backlog of 591,016 new unemployment insurance claims and over a million continued claims, according to the EDD.
The reset will accomplish two goals, according to the EDD:
- Prevent fraud by implementing a new identity verification tool that will make the application process stronger. People will have to upload photos and documents to prove it's them.
- Reduce the backlog by adding new staff to specifically respond to emails and mail. The goal is to have no backlog by January.
"By pausing for two weeks what’ll happen is they’re going to the 'ID Me' where you send picture of your ID and your face," Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), chair for the subcommittee overseeing EDD. "That will cut it down to about 14 days. Supposedly, what they’re telling me is it will still be faster, even though they’re pausing for two weeks."
Cooper said ID and fraud have been big issues for the system.
"I think we're going to find out that the fraud is probably going to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars," he added.
For some, the move is a needed one.
"It’s an antique system. It needs to be overhauled," said Cheryl Humber, moderator for the California EDD Problems and Solution Facebook group. "I don’t know why they didn’t do this 'ID Me' in the first place. My husband is a disabled vet, so he uses ID Me for his E benefits. People use it for their social security. It is a verified system which should have been done in the first place."
Humber and the rest of group have been helping people navigate what she described as roller coaster experiences with EDD. She hopes the temporary pause is an overhaul and that people get their backdate money in quick fashion.
"While the issues identified are the start of a journey to reset EDD and bring about significant changes to process, systems, and culture, the work of the strike team marks a key turning point to re-focus and re-center the provision of unemployment insurance for the good of all Californians," said Julie A. Su, California Labor Secretary in the news release.
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The claims support line will also be unavailable during this period.
EDD Director Sharon Hilliard said she agrees with the recommendations from the strike team and have already implemented some of them.
EDD says the only people impacted by this reset will be people trying to apply for benefits for the first time. Californians who have existing claims will still be able to use their accounts to manage existing claims.
Hilliard said that the EDD improvements will expand the document upload feature for mobile users, allow people to provide wage information, file military and federal employee claims online and implement new measurements to track claims processing work daily.
► MORE EDD AND UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS COVERAGE: Check out the latest from our Dollars and Sense team.
"We are in this for the long haul. The strike teams’ recommendations provide an opportunity to pivot and improve our systems with a priority of delivering on the Governor’s vision of innovative government systems that prioritize the customer experience, informed by data and great expertise," said Hilliard.
The two-week reset started on September 19 and will go until October 4.
Read the full EDD assessment here.
Read the strike team's recommendations here.
Read Director Hilliard's letter to Governor Newsom here.