SACRAMENTO, Calif. — To say the Employment Development Department has had problems during the COVID-19 pandemic would be an understatement. Lawmakers have been saying since the start of the pandemic, they would hold the agency accountable. Now that the legislative session has ended, the question of if there has been accountability remains.
“I would say the jury’s still out on whether the ship is turning because there were so many failures on so many fronts,” Assemblymember David Chiu said. “The problems at EDD took decades to create and can’t be dismantled in just one year. There’s so much more that we need to do to overhaul this department that’s in need of top to bottom comprehensive reform.”
There are five bills pertaining to EDD that are waiting on the California Gov. Gavin Newsom's signature. They are:
- AB12 – This prohibits agencies from sending mail with someone’s social security number. Which EDD had been doing, according to a California State Auditor issued report.
- AB56 – This requires EDD to pay for identity theft monitoring if it does release personal information in the mail and various other self-audits.
- AB110 – The bill creates a system to cross-reference EDD claims with the Department of Corrections.
- AB397 – False statement penalty, requires EDD to notify the individual prior to disqualification, inform them why and of their right to appeal.
- SB390 – The bill requires the EDD to develop and implement a plan for future recessions.
“I would describe these as tackling some of EDD’s immediate challenges but we certainly have not grappled with all of the current challenges or for that matter the long-term challenges," Chiu explained. "So this is what we were able to do in just the months we had this year."
AB12 and SB390 were co-authored by State Sen. Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh, who also weighed in on if EDD has been held accountable.
“No. Quite frankly, no. Not yet,” Bogh said.
Bogh added she would like to see Republican bills that didn’t make it to the governor’s desk like, SB39, SB58, and SB 232 get another chance next legislative session. She explained the main thing she wants is the audit hearing, which was originally scheduled for Aug. 17 but was postponed twice and is now scheduled for Oct.13, to actually happen.
“With transparency in mind, until our Democratic leadership, which is a supermajority in Sacramento allows us to have this hearing, I’m going to say that we’re still falling short on holding EDD accountable,” Bogh said.
Daniela Urban is the executive director of the Center for Workers’ Rights. The organization has been working with and fighting EDD for Californians since before the pandemic began. She doesn’t think EDD has been held accountable yet. She believes the change in administration at EDD has helped make changes.
“But whether they’ve admitted to their errors previously and remedied the problems that they had in the early stages of the pandemic, has yet to be seen,” Urban explained.
Urban said legislators on all sides of the aisle have been working to reform EDD.
“But once they had to start negotiating with the administration on what EDD could feasibly implement quickly, that’s when they faced some barriers. And that’s, I think, why there’s some delay in the accountability because it really comes from EDD and the administration, and if they’re not willing to make broad stroke changes, the changes are just not going to be made,” she said.
She reflected on what was accomplished.
“I think there are a number of bills that did get through that were sort of the little changes that were common sense and EDD could have implemented at any point, and so I do hope that other bills that have these broader changes do come in the next term or that we’re able to work on just by EDD making the decision to make the changes as more hearings are held about what went wrong last year,” Urban said.