SACRAMENTO (CBS13) –  Just like CBS13, lawmakers say they are overwhelmed with desperate requests for help from people trying to collect the unemployment money they’re entitled to.

But now, lawmakers say the Employment Development Department (EDD) is limiting them to helping just one person a week.

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CBS13 hears from people every day trying to get through to the EDD. We spoke with a woman Thursday afternoon who called sobbing after the governor’s office told her they couldn’t even force the EDD to help. Hers is just one of the more than 600 EDD viewer emails in our inbox right now.

Similarly, many lawmakers say they’ve diverted staff to solely work on constituents’ EDD issues. For a time, they say the EDD devoted some staff to handle the growing number of cases passed on by lawmakers. Then recently, something changed.

“Two weeks ago they sent a memo to us saying we could only expedite one case a week,” Assemblyman David Chiu said.

Assemblyman Chiu and State Senator Scott Weiner held a virtual press conference Thursday to highlight the EDD’s failures.

“My jaw dropped when I saw that,” said State Senator Scott Wiener, referring to the new case limit imposed by the EDD. Chiu even started the hashtag #EDDFailOfTheDay.

“What we wanted to do every day is highlight a constituent who has a common story to continue to educate EDD and the public on what we are seeing on our end if they are unwilling to address more than one case a week from each of our offices,” Chiu explained.

After speaking with lawmakers across the state, CBS13 has compiled some surprising statistics that provide a glimpse into how many people are still waiting for help. For instance, phone data obtained by Assemblymen Jim Patterson shows three out of four calls to the EDD went unanswered during one week in May.

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Additionally, Assemblyman Chiu points to a report from the Legislative Annalist’s Office that finds one out of five claimants have been unable to get a response from the EDD. And federal data obtained by CBS13 shows the EDD may have paid fewer than three out of five new unemployment claims during the first two months of the pandemic.

When asked what else could be done at this point, many lawmakers told CBS13 that they believe a top-down overhaul of the agency is needed.

“We need really transformational leadership, systemic reform leadership within EDD,” Chiu said.

In an email Thursday night, the EDD responded to remarks made at the virtual press conference, noting that the agency has paid out more than $37 billion over just the last 3.5 months.

The email read, in part:

“EDD paid $4 billion in benefits just last week – providing critical financial support to families and communities throughout California. According to the latest data, the state’s Employment Development Department (EDD) has processed a total of more than 7 million claims in just a few months, almost doubling the claim total over the worst full year of the Great Recession (3.8 million claims in 2010).”

The agency also said, following requests from lawmakers, that EDD rolled out a new email template today as a method for lawmakers to refer cases. However, according to an email from the EDD Legislative Office, lawmakers are only able to submit requests for help from people who applied at least two months ago — in March or April.

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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