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California labor secretary addresses unemployment in virtual town hall

California officials answered questions on the current state of affairs, including unemployment and recovery from the ongoing pandemic during a virtual town hall.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Congressman Adam Schiff, State Senator Anthony Portantino, and California Labor Secretary Julie Su provided updates and answered written questions from constituents about the ongoing pandemic in a virtual town hall on Monday.

“I can just assure you that we will not rest until every person eligible for benefits, gets their benefits in California,” Su said.

In September, California’s Employment Development Department (EDD), which handles unemployment claims, took a two-week pause on filing new claims. The EDD said the pause would allow it to “reset” and speed up its systems, reduce backlog, and prevent fraud.

More than 400,000 jobless are facing delays of more than 21 days in receiving benefits, the EDD reports. Since March, the department has processed 15.2 million claims dolled out $101 billion in benefits, an unprecedented amount in any given year.

However, some people like Gregory Womack, a bathroom remodeler from Atwater, are still pleading for relief.

"I've been calling sometimes 15 to 20 times a day," he said.

His work was halted months ago due to the coronavirus pandemic, so, he applied and was approved for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

"Here we are today and I still haven't received a dime, and I can't get anybody to answer the phones," Womack said.

He's one of millions in California who've seen hiccups with unemployment as EDD faced an unprecedented number of claims, backlog, and even fraud.

Womack's saving grace has been that his wife's unemployment claim was successful. Though, he says with that cash his family is barely scraping by. He said, if they don't get relief soon, they could lose their family farm.

"All I've got right now is a lot of faith and a lot of hope that this is all going to work out," Womack said.

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