SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Leaders of the state agency tasked with processing millions of unemployment claims during the pandemic gave lawmakers an update on its issues Wednesday.
A group working to improve the Employment Development Department told members of the Senate Labor Committee it’s on track to clear its backlog of about 1 million claims by January 27, 2021.
“We identified 1.6 million people were still waiting for their payment, this is what is referred to as a backlog. This is what we refer to as humans waiting for their money. Over 424,000 of them are no longer waiting,” Carol Williams, the EDD’s chief deputy director of operations, said Wednesday.
The department credits its new identity verification system, called “ID.me” for picking up the pace on benefit applications.
The department started using the new system less than two weeks ago but that improvement is just the beginning of a long list of department needs. Members of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s EDD strike team brought up concerns of the department’s manpower.
“At its core, the department has grown overly reliant on a single group of people who must perform highly specialized tasks to perform and process claims. In the long run, the department must take steps to simplify that work,” said Yolanda Richardson, the Secretary of California Government Operations Agency.
Lawmakers pressed EDD leaders on the number of EDD workers needed in and out of a recession.
Officials told the committee it can take years to train EDD employees.
“The fact that it takes years to train people appropriately, it says to me as a policymaker there’s something wrong here if the system is so difficult, not only for the individual seeking assistance but for those providing it,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara.
EDD leaders said they will roll out a specific timeline on more targeted improvements within the coming weeks.