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Elk Grove lawmaker calls for more accountability and oversight of California's unemployment office

"We're five months into this and we're still having issues, that's unacceptable," State Assemblymember Jim Cooper said Friday.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California lawmakers spent hours grilling California's Director of the Employment Development Department on Thursday over the department's failures to help people during the coronavirus pandemic, which includes nearly 240,000 people who still haven't received benefits. 

"We're five months into this and we're still having issues, that's unacceptable," said California Assemblymember Jim Cooper told ABC10 on Friday. 

Cooper said his office has been inundated with calls, just like other lawmakers, from people who still haven't received benefits and can't get through to the EDD office

Cooper, who a Democrat who represents Elk Grove, Galt and Lodi, is the chairman of the budget subcommittee, making him in charge of approving EDD's budget. He's calling for better accountability and more consistent oversight.

"We're going to have another hearing, we're not going to wait, we're not going to wait, and just let it keep on going along because what the state's been doing and what the EDD's been doing has not worked and we're doing a disservice to every Californian," Cooper said.

Sharon Hilliard, director of the EDD, said the failures on what she calls an "antiquated" and outdated system that they're working to replace, but not until October 2020.

"It's gotta come faster, October is unacceptable," Cooper said.

Hilliard apologized for the delays during Thursday's hearing.

"Most importantly, what I want to make sure everyone understands, is that the EDD sincerely regrets any payment delays experienced by our customers," Hilliard said.

According to the EDD, 239,000 people across the state are still awaiting the money they're entitled to, pending identity verification or a wage investigation.

DOLLARS AND SENSE:  EDD explains the top mistakes it sees people making when applying for unemployment benefits in California: