California Senate Republicans led by Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, accused Sacramento Democrats this week of protecting “(Gov. Gavin) Newsom’s failed unemployment department” after they delayed a hearing on accountability for the agency’s well-documented problems in response to the pandemic.
“Legislative Democrats postponed an important Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing scheduled for (Tuesday) that would have further delved into Gov. Newsom’s failed Employment Development Department,” according to a GOP statement sent last week.
During the current legislative session, Senate Republicans introduced three bills tackling EDD-related issues.
Senate Bill 58, introduced by Wilk, would require the EDD to end the practice of including full Social Security numbers on its most frequently mailed documents.
Republicans also presented bills to require EDD to cross-check prison inmate records with unemployment claims and to implement the full recommendations made by the State Auditor to improve the agency.
“Democrats refuse to discuss EDD because they know Newsom’s mismanagement is a textbook example of a government failure,” said Wilk in a prepared statement. “Last year, it was tweet after tweet with frustration, but now it’s delay, delay, delay. Meanwhile, Californians still desperately need help. This hearing was a crucial step in reforming an agency that needs to get its act together. I guess by avoiding this hearing, Democrats must be OK with this failed status quo.”
Issues at the state agency were magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to increases in unemployment comparable to the Great Recession.
Democrats also took note of the agency’s challenges.
Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, is the chairman of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee and authored Assembly Bill 56, which would make law the adoption of recommendations related to EDD from the State Auditor.
Similar to the Republican bills, AB 56 would address overpayments, backlogged claims, personal information on outgoing mail sent by EDD and cross-checking against incarcerated individuals’ information.
“I am eager to get to work on another EDD oversight hearing as soon as possible,” Salas said in a prepared statement regarding the meeting’s postponement. “There are many issues that still need to be resolved at EDD, which is why I called for an independent audit and introduced AB 56 to implement major EDD reforms.”
Republicans highlighted that a new date had not been set yet for a hearing of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, noting that the legislative session concludes on Sept. 10. The recall election to determine whether Newsom will be ousted as governor is four days later.
Representatives for Salas and Sen. John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, who serves as the committee’s vice chairman, said they did not know the reason for the hearing’s postponement or the new date it would be held.
Both legislators’ offices said Assembly Budget Subcommittee 4 – chaired by Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, D-Boyle Heights – is responsible for the scheduling changes.
“It is imperative that we hold a bicameral, bipartisan, and multi-committee hearing on EDD. This was not possible in August. My colleagues and I will return to Sacramento in September to ensure that it is done,” Carrillo said in a prepared statement sent to The Signal.
She said a successful joint hearing wouldn’t be possible without the participation of multiple committees including those related to insurance and accountability, as well as “an evaluation of the impacts of federal unemployment benefits ending in early September.”
“There have been five EDD oversight hearings in just over a year. Hundreds of millions of dollars in the state budget are focused on making Californians who need access to benefits whole,” she said. “This has been and remains my priority. We will continue to take action until the job is done.”