State's unemployment fund is running out

September 12, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
California has a problem with its unemployment fund. First, it's running out of money, but also hundreds of people are waiting on their unemployment checks for a different reason. The state is way behind in handling disputed claims.

"They should make it easier for us," says Allison Parsons, an unemployed worker.

Allison Parsons has been out-of-work since June and hasn't seen a single unemployment check because the state denied her claim. Nearly three months later, she finally has a hearing to appeal it.

"It's frustrating. I feel like as worker, we should be able to get unemployment," says Parsons.

Allison is among the 42,000 unemployed Californians appealing their denied claim, the highest in the nation, the Golden State also owns the dubious distinction of having the biggest backlog in the country.

Federal standards require that 60 percent of the appeals cases be decided within 30 days. California's rate in July was just a measly six percent. By 45 days, the feds want a decision in 80 percent of the cases. California can only muster 20 percent.

Latisha White is having second thoughts about appealing her denied claim after seeing those numbers.

"Outraged and discouraged, you know. It looks hopeless," said Latisha White, an unemployed worker.

Even the State Labor Department admits that's just awful.

"I think its dismal, especially in this tough economy, people who are unemployed deserve a timely resolution to their cases," says Paul Feist, the California Assistant Labor Secretary.

The Board of Unemployment Insurance Appeals blames poor management for its troubles and recently fired its executive director. It hired more judges to handle the claims and is working with the feds to reduce the logjam that's been around for nine years. Allison Parsons just wants the waiting game to end.

"I could use the money. Yes, I could. Big time!" says Allison.

If the state doesn't get its act together, it could cost California millions in federal grants to help support the unemployment insurance program. Meanwhile, the state auditor is scheduled to release a report in November, detailing exactly what is creating the backlog.


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