SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For the second year in a row, California is expected to have a budget surplus in the range of tens of billions of dollars. Yet, problems at EDD continue to persist, and there is debate about how that money could help the battered state agency.
Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh explained where she thinks the surplus should be directed.
“The surplus should be used right now to do everything we can to reduce the cost in doing business in California, which ultimately impacts the consumers or Californians as a whole,” said Ochoa Bogh.
She says she doesn’t feel comfortable saying the legislature should just allocate money to EDD, but she does say the legislature should hold EDD accountable. She says businesses have been treated unfairly, since they’re the ones who have to pay back the unemployment insurance fund.
“It was the government who asked these businesses to close down, to lay people off and now to ask them to pay back that unemployment insurance is unfair,” Ochoa Bogh said.
She says she’s trying to do something about it.
“I’m really excited to have co-authored an Assembly bill with Assemblymember Steven Choi and it’s AB 1596. And this bill would actually allocate some of the surplus funding that we have at the state level and pay down some of the unemployment insurance,” Ochoa Bogh said.
Daniela Urban, the executive director with the Center for Workers’ Rights, also reacted to news of a surplus.
“I think it shows that, although the economy is recovering, there’s still changes that need to be made in the state, and we have the opportunity to do those with the surplus,” Urban said.
She thinks the long term solution for the state’s insolvent unemployment insurance fund is increasing the amount that employers pay.
“So I don’t see the use of the surplus to mitigate the fund being the right choice. I think doing long-term improvements at EDD is a better way to approach a one time surplus and increasing the percentage is the long term fix for that shortfall,” Urban said.
She understands how long EDD has been troubled.
“I think the problems with EDD have long been overlooked by politicians because they’re able to be overlooked when we have low unemployment... I want to see this budget reflect the same types of priorities we saw last year in terms of improving the unemployment system, improving COVID sick leave and other protections for workers so that they can remain employed and then recover from unemployment if they do lose their jobs,” Urban said.