By The Signal Editorial Board
The state Employment Development Department announced on Saturday that it would not be accepting any new claims for unemployment benefits for at least two weeks.
Starting with the delays everyone experienced in getting benefits six months ago with the first rounds of layoffs driven by COVID-19, the EDD has been faced with an escalating backlog: There are still an estimated 600,000 claims that have not been processed within 21 days of being submitted, and the backlog has been growing at a rate of approximately 10,000 claims per day.
The backlog is due at least in part to the EDD’s failure to adjust quickly enough to the changing circumstances, and by antiquated EDD systems that take longer than they should to verify the identity of many claimaints and process claims. If, for example, you file a claim and there is an issue with your identity verification, then the EDD mails you a letter — paper letter, snail mail — with instructions on how to send them the proof of identification they need. Meanwhile, you’re back on the bottom of the ever-increasing pile.
We’re told those technical issues are going to be resolved, supposedly soon, with the implementation of more current technology, including a new tool called ID.me that’s intended to protect the system against fraud.
However, if you’re unemployed and wondering how you’re going to pay rent or feed your kids, you need those unemployment benefits now.
Gov. Gavin Newsom had a strike team put into place about six weeks ago to see how they could rectify the problem. And, after a month and a half of working on the problem, they have a report and a solution recommended.
The solution? Just abrogate responsibility until the EDD can catch up. So, the EDD is hitting the snooze button for at least two weeks, declining to accept any new unemployment claims during the “pause.”
Yep, you read it correctly. The governor’s task force, after a month and a half of thought, could only come up with that gem of an idea. And even with the pause and the new changes being made for unemployment claim processing, it’s estimated the EDD won’t be able to plow all the way through the backlog until January.
You can tell these are bureaucrats and not business people. Even in the pause, the EDD will just now be getting around to taking steps that should have been taken months ago, like 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.
Such adjustments shouldn’t have taken months of time and a task force recommendation before they were put into action.
Most businesses, if they’re facing an overwhelming demand for their service, would find ways to ramp up and meet that demand. Not in two weeks or a month or two. Now.
Not California’s government leaders — because they don’t treat the taxpayers as customers. They should, because the people facing unemployment are beyond mere customers. This is THEIR money.
Unemployment is not a handout. It’s an insurance program. These unemployed workers, for the most part through no fault of their own, due to COVID-19 are now being told they can’t collect on their benefits for at least two more weeks — and the smart money would be on it taking longer than that.
This is from a state that wants to tell you how to run every bit of your life and your business. What you can eat, what you can smoke, who you can have for a doctor, what insurance you have to have, what businesses can be open and which ones can’t during the pandemic.
California’s unemployed workers are in crisis mode, with bills going unpaid and putting food on the table a serious question mark for many. And the state’s answer was to punt.