State officials prepare for surge in unemployment insurance claims due to coronavirus closures

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — California’s Employment Development Department has been hit hard by a huge spike in unemployment insurance claims, most of them coming since Monday.

“This is an unprecedented surge of claims,” EDD Public Affairs Deputy Director Loree Levy told FOX40.

Due to the number of people losing jobs suddenly, EDD now has a 24/7 work schedule.

The department is repositioning workers, trying to get experienced hands out of retirement, and hiring new ones to handle the number of claims.

For those filing claims, you don’t have to be out of work.

You can collect unemployment if your hours have been cut due to the emergency.

“So, if you are losing wages through no fault of your own, that’s what these benefit programs are designed to do, is to help replace some of those wages,” explained Levy.

And because EDD handles disability insurance, those affected by the virus can also file claims.

“For instance, if you are ill you can file for a disability insurance claim or if you are caring for a family member who is ill or who is quarantined, you can file for a paid family leave insurance claim,” said Levy.

EDD says it learned its lesson a few years ago during the great recession when unemployment was at 12.5%.

That’s when it developed its web portal to handle well over a million unemployment insurance claims a year. But unemployment recently has been at just 3.9% percent. 

About 200 EDD offices, which handle disability insurance, employer taxes and job search programs, were closed to the public.

Sacramento Works employee Molly Smith, who helps people with job searches and works at the EDD office, was directing out-of-work people to EDD’s website because phone lines are jammed.

“All of the agencies are flying by the seat of their pants, we’re kind of making it up as we go along right now because no one was prepared for this,” Smith told FOX40.

EDD’s website will guide people through coronavirus employment issues and spells out how to file for claims.

EDD officials are urging patience if there are delays on the website until they ramp up services.

EDD officials told FOX40 that up to 50% of lost wages can be replaced if you are eligible for a period of 26 weeks.

During the great recession, the number of weeks was extended several times with federal funds approved by congress.

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