The reopening of the state of California has had little to no impact on the backlog of unemployment claims accrued during the COVID-19 pandemic.
South Bay residents continue to await the Employment Development Department’s (EDD) approval of claims resulting from breakdowns in the processing of claims.
“My biggest hurdle with EDD was it was clearly ill prepared to handle the onslaught of claims due to the pandemic,” said Marvin McCoy, an Inglewood resident whose claim has been stalled due to the ID verification process. “It’s easy to blame this on the pandemic but people must remember state leaders have been talking about updating an antiquated computer system for over 10 years now.”
McCoy resorted to contacting his local Assemblyperson’s office for answers.
“My experience with Asm. Autumn Burke’s office was interesting and although her office was able to resolve my issues, I did express my dismay and concern for other’s going through similar situations,” said McCoy.
Burke’s office explained their staff is inundated with resident’s claims.
“My caseload exceeds 200 constituents,” said Brandon Stansell, Field Representative for Burke’s office.
Constituents are encouraged to work with their state representatives to resolve issues as they have contacts within EDD to help expedite the processing of the claims.
For well over a year, California workers have complained about an ineffective and unresponsive state Employment Development Department, an embattled government agency that has struggled to pay people the unemployment benefits they’re owed in a timely and efficient manner.
In Los Angeles County, minorities were hit the hardest with COVID-19 infections and unemployment.
More than 44% of Californians who filed for unemployment insurance are 34 years old or younger, 65.3% were people of color and 56.9% had an education of high school or lower.
A report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided additional details into how the earliest months of the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affected minorities.
In early August, when about two-thirds of all U.S. counties were seriously affected with COVID-19 outbreaks, 92% of those with large Black populations and 75% of those with large Hispanic populations were, the report said.
Residents have taken their frustrations to social media complaining of long waits to speak to EDD representatives who continue to wade through an unprecedented number of fraudulent claims resulting in losses exceeding $11 billion.
“The systems and protocols in place to prevent fraud results in the disqualification and suspension of legitimate claims, which forces you to go through an appeal process that can take between 2-6 months to resolve,” said McCoy.
McCoy applauds the efforts of Asm. Mike Gipson, who represents the areas of Compton, Carson and Willowbrook, who publicly called out EDD for its failures to expedite the processing of claims.
“Our office is using an online EDD form submission process, as are all state legislatures offices and we have an overwhelming amount of submissions, and our office is responding with a maximum 3-4 day turn round and to date we’ve successfully addressed hundreds of cases,” said Asm. Gipson when contacted by the Wave newspaper. “I held a press conference asking EDD to continue expediting cases because people need to get paid and if residents don’t have access to a computer, please call my district office at 310-324-6408.”
Residents have contacted Gipson’s office and are seeing results.
“I had to re-apply for EDD and because my phone was broken I couldn’t enter some of my information and my claim was denied although I still have money to claim,” said Sandra Torres, who is awaiting surgery and needing her payments because she can’t work. “I spoke to Asm. Gipson’s office who said I should have a resolution within a week.”
On June 12, the overall logjam to deal with unemployment claims by California workers totaled 1.126 million, up about 1,100 from the bottleneck reported by the EDD for June 5.
There is a noticeable push to get Californians back to work, and asked McCoy if he thought that was a way to avoid addressing the issues within EDD.
“Not necessarily, but one can imagine a lighter caseload would alleviate their problems,” said McCoy.
Sen. Melissa Melendez believes the state should have hired more employees to assist with the claims processing.
“It’s clear we needed to hire more than 500 people and that we have done so many months ago,” said Melendez, a Republican senator representing areas of Riverside County. “It is unconscionable that people are waiting months for their benefits.”
Melendez states her office is currently handling 550 claims for residents.
Governor Gavin Newsom is facing harsh criticism over the handling of unemployment claims, as he fights off recall attempts for how he handled the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Newsom, is pushing the state legislature to approve his plan to use $5.2 billion in federal pandemic relief money to pay 100% of unpaid rent owed by low-income residents.
The state has more than $27 billion from the American Rescue Plan, which passed Congress in March — and is enjoying an unexpected budget surplus boosted in part by capital gains tax revenues from wealthy California residents.
California also received a combined $4.7 billion in federal funds allocated specifically for rental assistance from the American Rescue Plan and the economic relief package Congress passed in December.
Polls show that 4 of 10 Californian’s are not willing to recall Newsom, however, McCoy believes differently.
“I can imagine that if you’re an EDD claimant with issues with receiving your payment, I could see them supporting this recall,” said McCoy.