California halting new unemployment claims for 2 weeks during ‘reset’ with staff, technology

California halting new unemployment claims for 2 weeks during ‘reset’ with staff, technology

By Adam Ashton

The Sacramento Bee

California will not accept new unemployment claims over the next two weeks while the state’s Employment Development Department adopts new fraud prevention technology and works to clear out a backlog, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration announced late Saturday.

Employment Development Department Director Sharon Hilliard announced the pause on new claims in response to recommendations from the unemployment “strike team” Newsom appointed in July.

During the two-week pause, people filing new claims until Oct. 5 will be asked to provide contact information to the state. Hilliard wrote that they will be contacted to file claims when processing resumes.

“New claimants should not see a delay in benefit payments, and in fact many of them will actually get their payments faster as they avoid the older time intensive ID Verification process,” Hilliard wrote.

The pause on new claims is not expected to interrupt payments for people already in the system. Last month, California’s unemployment rate fell to 11.4%, down from 13.5% in July. About 2.1 million Californians were out of work last month, according to the department.

Burdened by outdated technology and overwhelmed by a historic wave in unemployment claims, Hilliard’s department has struggled through the coronavirus outbreak.

It has 1.6 million pending claims that require eligibility verification, and it does not expect to work through them until late January. It’s also confronting a recent surge in suspicious claims that the department is investigating as suspected fraud. About 40% of new claims are being routed to manual processing because they require verification, slowing down payments.

Newsom charged the strike team with making recommendations to address the immediate crisis and to look for some long-term solutions to prepare the department for future recessions.

Its recommendations are to:

— Quickly adopt an identity verification tool that would reduce the number of claims that require manual processing from a state employee. The department is contracting with the firm ID.ME to carry out the recommendation.

— Free up more experienced employees to work on complicated claims. The Employment Development Department hired thousands of temporary workers this year to get a handle on the millions of claims filed since the coronavirus outbreak stalled the state’s economy. In some cases, the strike team found, senior employees are spending their time training new workers. “New employees are taking up almost all the bandwidth of the experienced employees,” the strike team wrote.

— Reconfigure call centers. Last month, Hilliard told lawmakers that people contacting the department to ask about claims were waiting four to six weeks to have their calls returned. The task force recommends the department update its call center messages to better direct callers, assign senior employees to complicated cases and stop hiring new workers. “It is critical to keep experienced claims processors focused on the tasks only they can perform,” the task force wrote.

— Halt a technology modernization project. For three years California has been developing an unemployment system modernization intended to improve customer experiences the department’s outdated technology. It has not delivered, the task force wrote. It recommends the state “pause” the system modernization and begin a new effort after it resolves its unemployment claims backlog. “EDD must begin the process of truly transforming claimants’ experiences,” the task force wrote.

CaliforniaCoronavirusPolitics

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A man holds a sign at a rally to commemorate the life of George Floyd and others killed by police outside City Hall on Monday, June 1, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Chauvin verdict: SF reacts after jury finds ex-officer guilty on all charges

San Franciscans were relieved Tuesday after jurors found a former Minneapolis police… Continue reading

School Board member Faauuga Moliga, right, chats with Superintendent Vincent Matthews in between greeting students on the first day of in-person learning at Bret Harte Elementary School on Monday, April 12, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Faauuga Moliga named as school board vice president to replace Alison Collins

The San Francisco school board on Tuesday selected board member Fauuga Moliga… Continue reading

Legislation by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman would require The City to add enough new safe camping sites, such as this one at 180 Jones St. in the Tenderloin, to accomodate everyone living on the street. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
City would create sites for hundreds of tents under new homeless shelter proposal

Advocates say funding better spent on permanent housing

A construction worker rides on top of materials being transported out of the Twin Peaks Tunnel as work continues at West Portal Station on Thursday, August 16, 2018. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA’s poor track record on capital projects risks losing ‘public trust’

Supervisors say cost overruns and delays could jeapordize future ballot revenue measures

Roger Marenco, president of operators union TWU Local 250-A, speaks at a news conference outside the Muni Kirkland Yard announcing Muni will not be increasing fares on Wednesday, June 10, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFMTA’s union leader encourages riders to say ‘thank you’ to their Muni operators

A conversation with Roger Marenco, president of Transport Workers Union of America, Local 250A

Most Read