Assemblymember Holden's Statement on EDD's performance

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

For six months now, the Employment Development Department’s (EDD) inability to provide unemployment insurance benefits in a timely manner to qualifying Californians remains troublesome. 

Every day, desperate people from throughout the 41st Assembly District contact us. These individuals are suffering because EDD has failed to pay UI benefits in some cases for months. Callers also continue to have trouble getting an EDD representative on the phone to help them with stalled claims.

While these times are unpreceded, it is when people are living through a pandemic and a severe economic recession that unemployment insurance benefits become more urgent than ever before. The current performance of EDD is unacceptable. People need these funds to pay their bills and feed their families. After months of trying to work with EDD and their promises to resolve these problems, like most Californians, my patience has run thin.  

EDD must improve their customer service and technology to get the job done and help people throughout the state, including the 41st Assembly District. I stand with my colleagues in every effort to get our constituents the help they need.

Several months ago, I sent a letter to the Governor requesting that EDD significantly increase the hours of the call center that can resolve problems with UI claims. 
In July and August, the Assembly held hearings where EDD had to answer many tough questions from legislators and the public about the large backlog of claims. Facing a wave of complaints from the public and legislators, the Governor announced prior to the hearing that he was forming a “strike force” to address issues with EDD and streamline the process for resolving claims. They will draft a plan for improvements at EDD, including an overhaul of its obsolete IT system.

After the first hearing, I signed another letter to the Governor along with more than 60 other Assemblymembers and Senators to make immediate and structural changes at EDD.
The letter made many recommendations. Among the most significant are:
•    Clearing the entire backlog of more than 1 million pending cases before the end of September.
•    Improving customer service and expanding the hours for the call center that is currently only open from 8-12, M-F.
•    Resolving identification issues promptly that typically take months to resolve.
•    Transforming the department’s outdated technology into a cloud-based strategy, which would allow it to process more transactions faster.
•    Increasing transparency and accountability from EDD to the Legislature in terms of the number of claims processed and those pending on a weekly basis.
•    Allowing applicants to edit their claims online if they make mistakes.
•    Waiving deadlines for paper responses so that applicants do not have to restart the claims process.

During this legislative session, I supported increased accountability of EDD through AB 107, which requires the department to make public a number of metrics that will enable the Legislature and claimants to determine if EDD is able to improve its customer service and process unemployment insurance claims much faster. 

In addition, I supported an emergency audit of the EDD, which will among several objectives, determine the magnitude of EDD’s claims workload, including the number and percentage of claims approved, denied, pending, and backlogged since the beginning of the pandemic.  The recent reports that EDD now faces a serious fraud problem makes the audit even more urgent and important to bring about greater transparency and accountability.

Rest assured, I will continue to evaluate the performance of EDD through the audit, the results of the Governor’s “strike team”, and advocate for those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and deserve the prompt payment of their UI benefits.