header image

[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Inside
Weather


 
Calendar
Today in
S.C.V. History
June 24
1980 - Saugus Train Station relocated to Hart Park, Newhall [story]
Saugus Train Station


| Wednesday, Jan 27, 2021
employment
A Santa Clarita resident had been receiving unemployment insurance payments for three months when Bank of America froze the account in December, citing potential fraud. The bank card pictured has a magnetic strip, not a chip. The resident's repeated calls to EDD and BofA and email exchanges with both entities attempting to re-confirm identity and resolve the issue were unsuccessful for more than 30 days as of January 27, 2020. | Photo: Stephen K. Peeples / SCVNews.com.

 

SACRAMENTO — Nearly a year into a pandemic that gobbled up millions of jobs and caused double-digit jobless rates, California’s Employment Development Department is still mired one of the largest — and most costly — bureaucratic failures in state history.

Despite sweeping changes promised by the governor last summer, the state’s fractured Employment Development Department, which left hundreds of thousands of freshly unemployed residents in the dark while sending billions to inmates and fraudsters, is far from fixed.

Still carrying a massive backlog of unemployment claims, a state audit released Tuesday found many of the department’s problems were self-inflicted and predicted it will continue hassling Californians long after the pandemic.

“The department has not adequately planned how it will address this impending workload,” the audit said of the state’s ongoing attempt to weed out legitimate claims from fraudulent ones. “Claimants who applied in good faith may have to repay the benefits they received if the department finds them retroactively ineligible for some of all of those benefits.”

Swamped by a record number of unemployment claims, the employment department has buckled, leaving scores of Californians without an income over the course of the pandemic.

With their livelihoods erased by the coronavirus, millions of jobless Californians turned to a department that wasn’t even able to answer the phone. Once the claims surge began, the department answered fewer than 1% of calls made by desperate residents.

According to State Auditor Elaine Howle, the employment department’s call center deficiencies predate the pandemic.

“Despite knowing for years that it had problems in the call center, the department has not yet adopted best practices for managing the call center,” Howle says in the audit. “Leaving it less prepared to effectively assist the many Californians attempting to navigate the claim process for the first time.”

California appears to be working through a bout of déjà vu, as Howle says many of the same issues surfaced at the department during the Great Recession.

While the employment department received 6.5 million claims during the first half of 2020 alone — up from 3.8 million during 2008 and 2009 — the audit found it did little to prepare for the next major recession. The report says the department has been suffering from a shoddy claims process, staffing problems and a defective call center for nearly 10 years.

“We expected that the department would have a plan for scaling up its unemployment insurance program in response to a recession so that it could provide timely assistance to Californians,” the report states bluntly. “However, the department had no such plan ready.”

Aside from it being nearly impossible for Californians to find help over the phone, Howle says over 800,000 claimants that filed between April and September 2020 waited longer than 21 days to receive their first payment.

The department’s shortcomings have also made it an easy target for opportunistic criminals.

According to local and federal prosecutors, at least 35,000 California inmates filed for unemployment from March through August and the department paid out as much $30 billion in fraudulent benefits. They claim benefits were sent to applicants with names like “Poopy Britches” and even death row inmates.

Of the $114 billion in unemployment benefits paid out since March 2020, the department acknowledges nearly 10% went to fraudsters and that it’s still investigating other claims.

“The department was clearly under-prepared for the type and magnitude of criminal attacks and the sheer quantity of claims,” said EDD director Rita Saenz on Monday. “We are focused on making the changes necessary to provide benefits to eligible Californians as quickly as possible and stopping fraud before it enters the system.”

Howle acknowledges the employment department was tossed a historic workload with little warning but says its decision to relax eligibility requirements made it an easy fraud target.

To get money to Californians more quickly, the department greenlighted applications without fully examining whether they met the main eligibility criteria — being able to and available for work. Criminals not only took advantage of the decision, but the department is also now faced with the mammoth task of going back through millions of fast-tracked claims.

In fact, the department has already sent out retroactive notices to 1.7 million Californians who may have been overpaid.

“Because the department told claimants not to certify their continued eligibility, it faces another significant workload it must manage,” the report continues.

To increase transparency, Howle recommends the Legislature require the department to report publicly every six months on the amount of benefits it overpaid and has recouped. Lawmakers should also force the department to submit an operating plan for the next economic downturn, including how to better handle claim surges.

The bipartisan group of lawmakers who approved the emergency audit of the EDD last summer said the Legislature can’t wait for Governor Gavin Newsom to clean up the mess. In a letter, the group of state senators called for immediate oversight hearings in wake of Tuesday’s report.

“Since the pandemic began almost 11 months ago, we have heard horror stories from our constituents about unemployment claims being delayed, denied or just lost in the bureaucracy,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, we have also seen the governor’s past plans and initiatives fail to reform these problems, and the recently released governor’s budget offered no new proposals for strategic changes, systems investment, or management improvements.”

For the department specifically, Howle recommends it revise its public dashboard to show how many claims are actually waiting for payment and catalogue the reasons for each call it receives. The department responded it will implement all of the audit’s suggestions and noted it has greatly stepped up fraud prevention efforts, catching over 357,000 fraudulent claims in the last three months.

— By Nick Cahill, CNS

Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.

1 Comment

  1. Osmin Gonzalez says:

    Hello my name it osmin Gonzalez I loose my job I get positive on covid 19 after that loose my wife and iam homes with three Daughter I real need your help I trust in you gays that you can helping

Leave a Comment


SCV NewsBreak
LOCAL NEWS HEADLINES
Friday, Jun 21, 2024
Supes Urge Newsom Not to Cut L.A. County Inmate Firefighting Crews
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Board of Supervisors Chair Lindsey Horvath have sent an open letter to Governor Gavin Newsom urging him to continue funding the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations hand crews who currently help the Los Angeles County Fire Department tackle wildland fires.
Friday, Jun 21, 2024
Santa Clarita Now Accepting Project Proposals for Make A Difference Day
The city of Santa Clarita invites local schools and nonprofits to submit a proposal outlining a project that can benefit from volunteer support as part of Make A Difference Day on Saturday, Oct. 26.
Friday, Jun 21, 2024
June 25: City Council Meets on Open Space, Budget, Town Center Specific Plan
The Santa Clarita City Council will hold a regular meeting on Tuesday, June 25 at 6 p.m. that includes a host of issues including assessments, taxes, fees and budgets in addition to continued hearings on the Town Center Specific Plan.
Keep Up With Our Facebook

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
As a city manager, father and community member — the safety of Santa Clarita residents will always be my top priority - especially on the roads.
Ken Striplin | Enhancing Safety, Efficiency in Our Community
1980 - Saugus Train Station relocated to Hart Park, Newhall [story]
Saugus Train Station
1946, 11:20pm: William S. Hart, 81, dies at L.A.'s California Lutheran Hospital, leaving his Newhall estate and his (now West) Hollywood home to the public [story]
Hart dies
1972 - Vasquez Rocks added to National Register of Historic Places [list]
Vasquez Rocks
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Board of Supervisors Chair Lindsey Horvath have sent an open letter to Governor Gavin Newsom urging him to continue funding the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations hand crews who currently help the Los Angeles County Fire Department tackle wildland fires.
Supes Urge Newsom Not to Cut L.A. County Inmate Firefighting Crews
Give the gift of life, an upcoming blood drive is scheduled for Friday, June 28, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., at The Centre, 20880 Centre Pointe Parkway, Santa Clarita, CA 91350. The blood drive will be held in Cedar Hall.
June 28: City Hosts Blood Drive at The Centre
The city of Santa Clarita invites local schools and nonprofits to submit a proposal outlining a project that can benefit from volunteer support as part of Make A Difference Day on Saturday, Oct. 26.
Santa Clarita Now Accepting Project Proposals for Make A Difference Day
The Santa Clarita City Council will hold a regular meeting on Tuesday, June 25 at 6 p.m. that includes a host of issues including assessments, taxes, fees and budgets in addition to continued hearings on the Town Center Specific Plan.
June 25: City Council Meets on Open Space, Budget, Town Center Specific Plan
Part of the Summer Theatre Festival by Santa Clarita Shakespeare, "An Evening of Absurdity" will run July 12-21 at the MAIN, 24266 Main Street., Newhall, CA 91321.
The MAIN Presents ‘An Evening of Absurdity’
The city of Santa Clarita has issued a traffic advisory for daytime lane closures at Copper Hill and Rio Norte Drive beginning Monday, June 24.
June 24: Traffic Advisory Lane Closures Copper Hill/Rio Norte Drive
Santa Clarita will celebrate this year's Fourth of July with the Santa Clarita Valley Rotary Club's pancake breakfast, Santa Clarita Valley Parade Committee's Fourth of July Parade and city of Santa Clarita fireworks show.
Fourth of July Events in Santa Clarita
The California Department of Public Health is warning consumers not to eat, sell or serve any flavor of Diamond Shruumz brand chocolate bars, cones and gummies, which contain a proprietary mushroom blend. These products, known as microdose products, have led to multiple illnesses and hospitalizations in 16 states, including at least one poisoning in California.
California Public Health Warns Consumers About Diamond Shruumz Products
The Cube – Ice and Entertainment Center, Powered by FivePoint Valencia, will hold the inaugural Girls and Women’s Three-on-Three Hockey Tournament on Saturday, June 22.
June 22: The Cube Hosts Inaugural Girls, Women’s Hockey Tourney
Join Santa Clarita's oldest and largest running event, the 40th annual Independence Day Classic, Thursday July 4, from 7 a.m.- 10 a.m. at Newhall Memorial Park, 24933 Newhall Ave., Newhall, CA 91321.
July 4: Independence Day Classic
A special meeting of the William S. Hart Union High School District’s Governing Board will be held Wednesday, June 26, beginning at 8 a.m.
June 26: Hart District Governing Board Special Meeting
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) reports that the fast moving Post Fire that broke out in Gorman on Saturday, June 15 around 1:47 p.m. has reached 15,690 acres and is now 61% contained. This latest CAL FIRE update was issued at 7:44 a.m. on Friday, June 21.
Post Fire 61 Percent Contained, Pyramid Lake Remains Closed
For die-hard "The Love Boat" fans, the ultimate cruise experience just dropped anchor. Princess Cruises, which is headquartered in Santa Clarita, has announced an exclusive VIP package for its Love Boat themed cruise Aug. 32-Sept. 7 that promises intimate, up-close interactions with the show's beloved characters: Doc, Gopher, Isaac and Vicki Stubing.
Princess Cruises Offers ‘The Love Boat’ Celebration Cruise
The Valley Industry Association will host VIA Cocktails & Conversation: An Evening with CA State Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo on Wednesday, July 10.
July 10: Cocktails & Conversation with Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo
1941 - Ernie Hickson buys out Trem Carr's interest in their Monogram movie ranch, renames it "Placeritos" (later called Melody) [story]
Ernie Hickson
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) reports that the fast moving Post Fire that broke out in Gorman on Saturday, June 15 around 1:47 p.m. has reached 15,690 acres and is now 24% contained. This latest CAL FIRE update was issued at 7 a.m. on Thursday.
Post Fire 47 Percent Contained, Reported 15,690 Acres
The Santa Clarita Arts Commission will hold a study session Thursday, June 27, at 6 p.m., in the Carl Boyer Room at City Hall.
June 27: Arts Commission Study Session
Katherine Dyer has signed her national letter of intent to continue her swimming career at The Master's University.
Katherine Dyer Commits to TMU Swim Program
Every summer, Santa Clarita’s very own Central Park, located at 27150 Bouquet Canyon Road, transforms into a premiere venue for live musical performances where friends, families and neighbors come together to sing and dance the night away.
Jason Gibbs | Get Ready for Concerts in the Park Summer Soundtrack
SCVNews.com