BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – If you want to file for unemployment, or if you recently filed, it’s going to be a while until you receive your benefits. That’s because the overwhelmed and much-criticized employment development department is completely revamping its processing. The department is not accepting any new claims until October 4th so it can reorganize.
This move comes after governor gavin Newsom’s “Strike team” released its report last night. It looks into EDD’s outdated system and suggests changes to tackle backlog issues and fraud. The pandemic plunged millions of Californians into unemployment and relying on the EDD for benefits. But the department has not risen to the challenge.
“Why are we still seeing backlogs why are we still having people calling our offices saying look I’ve been on hold for hours. And when they do get on, sometimes the call drops or the person on the other end of the line is not able to help them.” Newsom’s ‘strike team’ report says that around 1.6 million unemployment claims are on backlog. And it says it’ll take until the end of January to complete these claims.
The EDD has also had issues with fraud and verifying identities. One viewer, Mallory Mrtinez, recently received 50 envelopes from the department, each with unemployment claims addressed to different names. State Senator Shannon Grove says these problems have existed for a long time.
“The better solution would’ve been making sure that the issues that we had with the EDD department in the beginning back in 2012 would’ve been addressed,” Grove said. “It’s been a failing department prior to that but we do have a recent audit about that year and none of those audit requests were fixed. And now we have a disaster situation.”
This two-week delay gives the EDD time to make the changes suggested by the governor’s strike team report. The first step is to implement a new program called ID Me.
“We’ll have requirements under this automated it system that uses selfies to provide additional verification in ways that we can substantially, not exclusively, mitigate fraud,” Governor Gavin Newsom said.
This will require users to upload identity documents and a photo of themselves. The EDD says it will enable quicker id verification which means unemployment benefits arrive more quickly. To deal with backlog, they’re moving all experienced staff members off of the phone lines, so they can instead work on processing the more complex claims. People who want to submit a claim now will be redirected to a new webpage. If you put in your information, the EDD will notify you when the new system is up and running.
EDD says this pause won’t impact anyone with current unemployment claims.