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Lawmakers hold state unemployment agency accountable

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Posted at 9:40 PM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 00:40:34-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - California lawmakers grilled the head of the state's Employment Development Department (EDD) on Thursday, asking why unemployed Californians still don't have their money.

On Thursday, members of Assembly Budget Subcommittee 4 on State Administration demanded answers from state unemployment officials.

“We are two months into this pandemic, and hundreds of my constituents have yet to receive unemployment benefits. It's unacceptable," said Assemblymember Todd Gloria. "I will continue to monitor EDD's progress to ensure Californians receive the unemployment assistance they need and deserve."

Lawmakers said they're hearing from constituents who are struggling in the application process, being denied with no explanation, and having difficulty getting in touch with anyone at the department.

"We've never heard the type of suffering that people are experiencing right now, not just in regard to the pandemic, but when they call your bureaucracy," said Assemblymember David Chiu. "The feedback we're getting is atrocious."

The head of the department told lawmakers they have a total of 1,100 people answering calls.

EDD is also in the process of hiring 600 additional employees for the call center, with hopes of having them on the phones early next month.

EDD Director Sharon Hilliard also told lawmakers they are hiring 1,800 more people to process claims and address issues.

"It's sheer capacity for us, and we are doing everything under our power to improve our capacity as well as systems, and we're just trying to hit it from every different direction," Hilliard said.

Hilliard told lawmakers when the COVID-19 pandemic started, the state was at the lowest unemployment rate, 3.9 percent. She said EDD staffing levels were also low and the agency had to turn on a dime to start processing record amounts of claims.