SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The Employment Development Department was in the hot seat Thursday as lawmaker’s grilled agency leaders about their unemployment failures amid the pandemic.
Lawmakers cited our ongoing reporting as CBS13 Investigative Reporter Julie Watts has been working to get answers.READ MORE: Stimulus Check Update: Are Relief Payments Bad For The Economy?
It took 20 weeks, dozens of stories and an assembly hearing, but we finally got the answer to the question we’ve been asking for months: how many people does EDD think are still waiting for their unemployment checks?
Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) referenced our reporting when he questioned the director.
“We’ve heard you constantly duck and avoid questions, earlier this year, he said after referencing our reports. “Local CBS stations analyzed data that showed three out of five initial claims had not been paid, and EDD said it didn’t know how to track how many people had claims approved, denied or paid,” Chiu said during the hearing.
EDD Director Sharon Hilliard responded by saying she would never mislead the public or lawmakers.
Ahead of Thursday’s hearing, Director Hilliard finally released that data. According to the EDD, 1.12 million people are still waiting for an unemployment payment, but the agency says it is only actively working to address 239 thousand of them – only one out of five of those outstanding claims.
The rest of them? EDD says those claimants need to send in additional information..
But as we’ve reported, many of those people can’t get through to the EDD to submit the information. Some tell CBS13 they already sent in the information multiple times, others says they have no idea what more information EDD needs
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The EDD also acknowledged that while they have hundreds of call center representatives to answer and transfer calls, they have limited staff trained right now who can actually fix the most complicated problems.
“How on earth are these 889-thousand California’s supposed to figure out how to resolve their claims,” asked Assemblymemebr Chiu.READ MORE: Federal Agencies Raid Roseville Home Of Former Sacramento Sheriff's Employee
“We do a number of things in communication we send emails we send notices,” the director responded. “At some point there’s only so much we can do if the claimant isn’t going to go in and certify.”
However, CBS13 has heard from many of people who say they can’t certify for various reasons. Some whey they have still not received the notice from EDD with the code allowing them to log in.
We’ve also heard from hundreds of people who say they only received one or two payments, but but are missing many more. It’s not clear if EDD is including these people in the number of people paid, or the number of people still waiting for payments.
Lawmakers expect the number of people who are waiting for payments is much higher than the EDD suggests.
The EDD Director also address the call center issues, acknowledging that while EDD has hundreds of call center reps to answer and transfer calls, they have limited staff trained right now who can actually fix the most complicated problems.
Lawmakers wanted to know when more of those trained representatives would be answering the phone.
“We already are open to eight to eight. And we do provide both technical and claim assistance. And we’re adding more people…,” Hilliard said.
“Director, you’re not in the room,” Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris said, interrupting the Director. “You’re not seeing the number of eyes rolling and the number of exasperated folks in the audience as you are continuing to fail to answer this question.”
The EDD says it hopes to have call centers full staffed and upgraded by October and the director said they are rolling out a new automated system that they say will help rout people the call center representatives who can actually help.
Follow our continuing coverage as CBS13 works to get answers to your Coronavirus Unemployment Questions:MORE NEWS: Study: There Was No 'Mass Exodus' From California In 2020