State Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Central Valley, have urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to keep the state’s Employment Development Department phone lines and operations open and fully staffed.
In a letter to the governor Wednesday, the lawmakers said the EDD should be operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week as an emergency work-around until the delay in claims processing is addressed.
“Californians are hard working,” Wilk said. “They pay into this unemployment insurance system, and the state is not treating them like customers, but they are customers. And the fact of the matter is that if you look at the data, we’ve had 5.8 million Californians file for unemployment, and 37.5% of them have yet to receive an answer to their claim.”
Their request comes as the pandemic has exacerbated the EDD’s resources, resulting in a backlog of claims, unanswered phone lines, glitches in the claims process and other problems.
“Your recent orders to re-close much of the state will further exacerbate EDD’s failure to address its current workload and we fear, without drastic actions, the agency will continue to fall further and further behind,” the letter stated.
Both Wilk and Hurtado’s offices have had hundreds of unemployment-related constituent case files opened as a result of the backlog, which Wilk said is just not acceptable.
“The other potential challenge is that we’re accelerating again in terms of the spread of the virus, and there’s a possibility that the governor chooses to lock down the economy again,” Wilk added. “You’re going to have a resurgence in unemployment claims, and we still haven’t even gotten through the first wave, so we need to do more.”