California takes 2-week ‘reset,’ pausing new unemployment claims


California’s Employment Development Department announced Saturday it’s taking a two-week reset, pausing new unemployment claims to help expedite new claimant payments, reduce fraud and tackle a backlog of cases.

This comes in response to recommendations provided by the EDD Strike Team, which was established by Gov. Gavin Newsom to create a blueprint for improving and modernizing technology systems at the EDD.

“I thank the Strike Team for their expertise and diligence in helping us closely examine our processes and challenges during this historic pandemic,” EDD director Sharon Hilliard said in a prepared statement. “We agree with the team’s recommendations, and have already implemented some of them and are quickly adopting others to help eligible Californians receive the valuable financial support they need.”

As of Saturday, the EDD had a backlog of nearly 600,000 Californians who applied for unemployment insurance more than 21 days ago, yet their claims had not been processed — along with an estimated 1 million cases in which individuals received payments, but subsequently modified their claim and thus are awaiting resolutions.

The reset period is expected to help stem the backlog, while implementing, a new identity-verification tool, is meant to fortify the application process against fraud, among other immediate actions.

Other changes expected to take effect during the two-week period include redirecting more experienced staff from the phone lines to working through the oldest and most complex claims, while redirecting new staff to process items received and calling claimants for any additional information needed to help resolve issues on their claims.

These changes are expected to assist in the EDD’s plan to reach zero backlog by January 2021.

During the reset, individuals looking to submit a new claim for unemployment benefits are set to be redirected to a temporary webpage where they can submit their personal information. The EDD is then expected to notify them when the online system is ready. 

New claims are expected to be backdated to cover the reset period, allowing claimants to certify their benefits faster, and receive their first payment within the 21 days as if they had submitted their claim during the reset period.

Those who already have established claims can still be able to use their online account to manage existing claims, including certifying for benefit payments every two weeks, reopening a claim if need be after a break in benefits and monitoring their claim activity and payments.

“We are in this for the long haul. The strike teams’ recommendations provide an opportunity to pivot and improve our systems with a priority of delivering on the governor’s vision of innovative government systems that prioritize the customer experience, informed by data and great expertise,” added Hilliard. “Though it will not happen overnight, we will operationalize these recommendations to the best of our abilities and regularly update our customers, the Governor, and the legislature. We welcome the opportunity to enhance our ability to serve fellow Californians.”

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