By Julie Watts

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — CBS13 has heard from a growing number of people who say Employment Development Department phone representatives have been accusing them of making costly typos on their unemployment applications. Following a CBS13 investigation, EDD is now acknowledging its own staff may be responsible for some of those date errors. However, the agency stopped short of saying it would automatically correct the errors for those who may be impacted.

As we first reported earlier last week,  many self-employed Californians are complaining that they are only getting unemployment payments dating back to late April, around the time they were finally allowed to apply under the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. 

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Even though they have been out of work for months, and insist they entered the correct “employment interruption date” on their unemployment applications, they say their EDD claims indicate that they’ve only been out of work since April.  

Some have evidence, their printed application, proving they entered their correct date when they filed for unemployment. Still, they say EDD reps have been refusing to back-date their claims to the correct date, meaning they could miss out on months of the unemployment that they’re entitled to.

The filers we spoke with said they stand to lose anywhere between $2,700 and $8,000 due to the date errors.

“We’ve talked to probably close to 100 people on different Facebook pages,” Jessica Stanford said in a group interview with a half dozen filers. These date errors have become a common topic in the Facebook groups for people struggling with unemployment claims.

Adding to their frustration, they all seem to have the same alleged typos. Almost everyone who contacted CBS13 had one of two specific incorrect claim dates — either April 19th or April 26th.

“They’ve been lying from the beginning,” Stanford said. “They are trying to make us feel like it’s our fault.”

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Over the past month CBS13 has received a variety of responses from EDD ranging from, “we have always had the ability to backdate a claim” and “people can get assistance correcting an error via the phone,” to “this is not a system issue” citing  “individuals making errors on their application.”

But after our story aired and we heard from even more people with the same incorrect claim dates, we questioned EDD again.

Now, after one month, and more than 20 back and forth emails, EDD is finally acknowledging that EDD staff may be responsible for some of the incorrect dates.

The agency clarified Friday that the system automatically sets the claim start date based on the week someone applies. Then staff is supposed to backdate each claim to the date on the application.

“Staff have been trained to backdate PUA claims to the date the individual’s work was directly impacted by the pandemic, to a date as far back as February 2,” EDD spokesperson Loree Levy said in an email Friday morning. “If staff inadvertently forget to do so, the claim may default to a more recent date of when the claim is filed.”

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In other words, when PUA applicants applied, the system automatically set their claim start dates based on the week they applied – which for most was the week of April 26 – the week the PUA application went live.

EDD staff was then supposed to physically backdate each of those claims to the date that the claimant had put on their application. In some cases, it appears, the EDD staff did not do that.

Levy reiterated Friday, “We have re-emphasized this process to all staff working on PUA claims.” However, the agency stopped short of saying it would automatically fix the issue for those affected.

We asked EDD if they would review and correct any claims with the April dates in question but the agency did not respond to our final email.

However, all of the people we spoke with on Friday, who say they cited this story to EDD phone representatives, were able to successfully get their dates corrected for the first time in over a month.

UPDATE  6/1/2020: 

After this story initially aired, EDD replied to our most recent email which asked, “Have you now instructed staff to go back and correct all applications by checking all PUA claims with default claim dates (of 4/19 or 4/26)? Or do PUA filers have to request the correction if they have an incorrect date?”

Here is the agency’s response:

PUA is a brand new program that staff have had to quickly learn and we have re-emphasized this backdating procedure with our staff.

When it comes to the backdating issue, there is a mix of staff not following proper procedure and claimants making a mistake on their applications.  To help, people can follow the process we identified for you before to write a correction on their award notice and send it to EDD through the mail.  As services continue to evolve in this pandemic, we’ve also established another process that claimants can use for requesting a revision in their claim start date, both for the PUA situation as well as for a regular UI claim if for whatever reason the claimant was delayed in getting their claim initiated after becoming unemployed.

On our EDD website, there is a feature called Ask EDD – a way of contacting us without having to wait to get through on the phone lines.  After selecting the Unemployment Insurance category, select the “Claim Questions” sub-category and then select “Backdate the Effective Date of my UI Claim due to COVID-19 (Ask EDD).”  At that point the claimant writes their request for backdating their claim to a new start date based on a date they indicate their work was impacted by the pandemic. This is a priority workload item for us and should not take several weeks to complete.

NOTE: EDD has previously stressed that when sending correspondence though the mail, applicants must send the letter to the address listed on the EDD notice they received in the mail. They cited people sending correspondence to the wrong address.

Applicants can also call the EDD call center at 1-800-300-5616 to request assistance, however many tell CBS13 that they have called hundreds of times and had no success.

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Follow our continuing coverage as CBS13 works to get answers to your Coronavirus Unemployment Questions: 

CBS13 Investigates: Coronavirus Unemployment

Julie Watts