Wilk, other senators urge Newsom to improve unemployment insurance claim processing

State Senator Scott Wilk speaks at the Child & Family Center board installation at Sand Canyon Country Club Thursday evening. Cory Rubin/The Signal
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State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, is urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to reach a speedy resolution to improve unemployment processing of claims as millions of Californians continue to file for benefits amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Wilk and six other members of the Senate Republican Caucus wrote a letter to the governor on Thursday, criticizing the California Employment Development Department, which handles the claims, and its handling of unemployment insurance claims during the pandemic. 

“Beginning with your executive order shuttering all ‘non-essential’ businesses in March, EDD’s handling of UI claims has been absolutely abysmal and unacceptable,” read the letter, “We are asking that immediate steps be taken to drastically improve EDD’s processing of claims, and its responsiveness to unemployed workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The senators expressed in the letter that constituents have called complaining about dropped calls, busy lines and delays in receiving benefits. 

Although the number of claims has slowed, the unemployment rate in California continues to climb. An estimated 3.7 million workers in California, or a near 20% of workers in the state, have filed for unemployment over the past seven weeks, according to figures recently released by the U.S. Department of Labor. 

On average, the EDD has seen 110,000 new unemployment claims per day, a figure Newsom previously said has overwhelmed the system. Over the past four weeks, California has processed about 2.3 million claims, which surpassed the total amount processed in 2019 and the worst four weeks of the Great Recession, which was about 375,000 claims, according to the governor’s office in a previous news release. 

On April 15, Newsom announced the Unemployment Insurance branch would increase its staff with 1,340 employees, including 740 EDD workers and an additional 600 state workers to expedite benefits through a new call center, operating seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

In Santa Clarita, the unemployment rate increased by 42% over the past year and 36% in 2020, placing the city in the 17th place among others in the nation with the biggest growth in unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report by WalletHub. 

EDD’s statewide unemployment rate and job market report is expected to be released in late May.

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