SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — For months, CBS13 has been reporting on Californians struggling to collect unemployment from the Employment Development Department (EDD).
Now we’ve learned EDD staff is so overwhelmed with problems they can’t fix, that some are telling people – who call EDD for help – to hang up and call their local lawmakers instead.
This comes after the agency recently told lawmakers they could each only expedite one EDD problem per week.
From congress members to state assembly members, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle came to CBS13 out of frustration after learning EDD staff had been pawning off people with problems on them.
Several lawmakers have been following our continuing coverage.
CONTINUING COVERAGE: CBS13 Investigates Coronavirus Unemployment.
Congressman Josh Harder’s (D–CA 10th District) office was the first to bring the issue to our attention. He said he’s heard from multiple constituents who tell him that EDD representatives referred them to him for help so that he could refer their cases back to the EDD.
“EDD has been directing folks to call me, which makes no sense whatsoever,” Harder said. “They’re the ones handing out the checks. It’s up to them, not us. And this is just circular bureaucratic nonsense.”
Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) told CBS13 that EDD representatives have referred people to his office from across the state.
“The last one we received from a constituent was last Friday where she was having difficulty and finally reached somebody (at the EDD),” Patterson said. “The EDD said, ‘Well, we can’t help you call Assembly Member Patterson.'”
In fact, it’s reportedly happening so often that several legislative offices tell CBS13 they raised the issue on Friday during their bi-weekly call with EDD. Lawmakers say the EDD told them it was aware of the issue and said Friday that they have advised their staff not to tell people to contact lawmakers for help.
CBS13 reached out to EDD for comment on Sunday and again on Monday when we asked for a copy of the notification reportedly sent to staff.
EDD has been unable to provide a copy of that notification. A spokesperson said in an email Monday that they “are investigating it today” and will let us know what they find “as soon as possible.”
The agency provided the following statement late Monday evening:
“We have always partnered with legislative staff in investigating and responding to constituent inquiries. But UI claimants should always be forwarding their claim questions through the established communication channels that EDD has designed to assist them. EDD has issued reminders to all Unemployment Insurance staff to follow established policies and procedures and direct claimants through those established department channels.”
“Why are these call center reps sending people to you? Is it because they don’t want to help or they’re not equipped to help?” CBS13 investigative reporter Julie Watts asked the lawmakers.
“The call center is there to run interference for the EDD, not to solve problems,” Patterson responded.
Patterson recently requested an Audit of the EDD and has been outspoken about the agency’s failings amid the pandemic.
“This crisis started in March,” Harder added. “It’s now nearly August and they still don’t have the folks that are actually able to solve these problems.”
CBS13 has heard from hundreds of viewers who’ve struggled to get answers from EDD staff as they’ve waited months for the agency to pay them the unemployment they’re entitled to.
While many blame the EDD phone reps for the inability to help, Assemblyman Patterson says, according to insiders he’s spoken with, the hundreds of phone reps EDD hired were never intended to actually fix problems.
“The problem is they are there to simply run interference and to tell people, well, call back or call your legislature or I’ll give it to somebody and you’ll hear from them and they never hear from them,” Harder explained.
CBS13 has heard from many people who say they have called EDD only to be put on a call back list and wait weeks for a return call.
It now appears some EDD reps realize people may not get the help they need if they wait for the EDD, so they are sending people to lawmakers in hopes they might be able to expedite their cases and get real results.
Follow our continuing coverage as CBS13 works to get answers to your Coronavirus Unemployment Questions:
Correction: The original on-air version of this story referred to “thousands” of EDD phone reps instead of “hundreds.”