California EDD Struggles Against Computer Outage, Backlog

The state Employment Development Department acknowledged Monday that it was working to correct "an intermittent issue" that surfaced with the computer system its workers use to process claims for unemployment benefits.

California EDD website
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(TNS) — California's embattled labor agency acknowledged Monday that "an intermittent issue" has surfaced with the computer system its workers use to process claims for unemployment benefits.

The state Employment Development Department has told staffers for multiple state lawmakers that the computer system for handling jobless benefits is experiencing outages and glitches.
"We're trying to catch up with our IT folks," said Loree Levy, a spokesperson for the state EDD. "It appears there was an intermittent issue."
 
The EDD told state legislative staffers it is working to fix the problem. "My staff reached out to the EDD, which informed us they are aware of the problem and are working to resolve it," state Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, said in comments emailed to this news organization. "They did not provide an ETA" to get the site working consistently again.
 
The "Is It Down Right Now" website checker began reporting Sunday that the EDD unemployment benefits site "is having problems." "The technology at the EDD continues to fail," state Assemblymember Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, stated in comments emailed to this news organization. "Instead of coming clean and telling us what's actually going on, they continue to mislead us and the people of California who are relying on them."
 
Thousands of people identifying themselves as individuals attempting to certify to receive jobless benefits posted complaints about the EDD problems on the "Is It Down Right Now" site. The workers said they were having trouble getting through to the EDD site or difficulties in transacting any requests.
 
"Some customers are experiencing issues using these services," was the message one worker received while on the EDD unemployment benefits site, according to a post on the down detector site. "We're working to restore service as soon as possible. Please check back later."
Severe difficulties at the EDD are nothing new for the agency, which has been under fire from state lawmakers and the public for the better part of a year.
 
Starting in March 2020, the EDD was buried in an avalanche of unemployment claims it has since struggled to pay on a timely basis. The results have been uneven at best.
Unemployment claims skyrocketed after California workers lost their jobs in record numbers because of business shutdowns ordered by state and local government agencies to curb the coronavirus' spread.
 
California workers seeking government assistance have encountered a bureaucratic maze of obstacles including a broken phone center, glitch-hobbled computer system, suspended benefit payments and fraud.
 
To worsen matters, the EDD backlog of unpaid claims remains stuck above 1 million and is actually increasing. As of March 17, the unemployment claims of 1.06 million workers were trapped in the EDD's logjam, a slight increase of 500 claims from the week before, the official EDD dashboard reported.
 
The EDD-reported backlog of 1.06 million consists of 933,100 initial unemployment claims and 122,200 continuing claims. A claim, according to the EDD's official explanation, becomes part of the backlog if more than 21 days have passed without a timely payment to the worker or a final decision by the EDD on the claim's status. The EDD says it is working on a more accurate method to determine the size of the backlog.
 
Ominously, in a separate problem for California workers, the EDD has warned that unemployed workers might have to wait until April 10 — or even April 30 — to receive the extra $300 in weekly benefits that the federal government approved recently. The additional $300 in weekly benefits is slated to expire on Labor Day.
 
Sen. Becker said the EDD needs to do a better job of keeping people informed about what is happening on the website. Becker said he took his concerns directly to EDD director Rita Saenz.
"EDD needs to improve its public reporting of key performance metrics," Becker said. "I strongly urge EDD to include uptime and downtime in those metrics. I'm in conversations with the director on this topic."
 
One California worker said that even after finally getting through to an EDD employee on the telephone, that person said it wouldn't be possible to immediately provide assistance on Monday.
"I just finally was able to get ahold of someone after 100 calls, but they said they weren't able to help me because their system was down," the worker, Tierra Zachman, stated in a message sent to a state legislative staffer on Monday.
 
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