SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — In a scalding joint-letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, state lawmakers say the Department of Employment is failing Californians. Lawmakers are demanding that the governor act immediately to address the state's growing backlog of unpaid unemployment claims.
They list key recommendations to overhaul the system and get the Employment Development Department to start paying up benefits still owed to more than one million Californians.
Most pressing is "clearing the backlog." It would require the EDD to certify all claims and award benefits now and resolve any issues later.
San Diego mayoral candidate and state assemblyman Todd Gloria said the demands are urgent.
“What we’re saying is give them a portion of their benefit, help them make ends meet while the bureaucracy turns out the application,” said Gloria.
Last week, Newsom announced the creation of an EDD “strike team” charged with upgrading the agency’s tech-glitches and customer service by the end of September.
But lawmakers want the governor to give the team authority to overrule EDD leadership including its director who was recently blasted in a legislative hearing.
The EDD said there are hundreds of workers answering and transferring calls, but limited staff actually trained on fixing the most complicated problems.
Transparency-is also on the list. Lawmakers are pushing for the creation of a “governance dashboard,” to publicly report key metrics on a weekly basis, including how many claims remain unfulfilled.
“That number needs to be zero,” said Gloria.
What Newsom thinks of those reforms remained unclear as of Wednesday. In an email, a governor spokeswoman highlighted the EDD’s accomplishments since March, including how it’s processed 9.3 million claims and paid $55 billion in benefits.