EDD says progress being made on state auditor's recommendations, but concerns remain

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Frustration, tears and even homelessness -- just some of the experiences of the unemployed while dealing with the Employment Development Department.

The agency dealt with a similar crisis during the 2008 Great Recession.

Here's a look at where progress is being made and solutions to push that progress along further to fix an outdated system.

Alison Carelli's experience is a familiar one for many. Getting to a real person at EDD can prove frustrating.

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"For added convenience, you can certify for benefits using UI Online," EDD's recorded message says over the phone.

"That's the biggest joke," Carelli tells 7 On Your Side. "Because you can't get anyone online either to respond."

A frustrated Carelli holds the phone away from her ear in exasperation. "It just hung up on me."

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We are looking at California's EDD issues in "Broke: California's Unemployment Crisis."



Reginald Pearson's jobless benefits ran out in April.

The EDD promised him a decision on whether his benefits could be extended within two weeks.

It's been almost six months and he's still waiting.

"That's what I don't know," he says. "It's going to tell me I was or wasn't, but I received no notification whatsoever, if I was or wasn't approved."

RELATED: Should EDD reopen unemployment offices? Right now they're shut for good

Andrew Stettner of the Century Foundation authored a study for the think tank titled "How to Modernize Unemployment Insurance Technology."

The issues we're facing with the the EDD in California are similar to what the other 49 states are experiencing.

"This has not been a public priority. It's been neither the federal government's priority nor the state's priority," said Stettner.

Funding for the EDD is connected to the jobless rate. Low unemployment right before the pandemic meant less funding.

RELATED: 8.9 million people lose all federal unemployment benefits Monday as COVID safety net ends

"(The) state's managed the biggest crisis in history with the lowest budget in history," said Michele Evermore of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Her agency is working to come up with solutions for all 50 states by developing computer modules the states say they need most.

RELATED: EDD admits to waiting on man's unemployment claim so long, it was rejected

"If there's another pandemic, if there's another emergency, how do we create a system that's resilient enough?" she asks.

Modules that could be created include a wage verification system or a program that kicks out fraudsters without falsely accusing innocent people.

In California, thousands wrongly suspected of fraud found their accounts frozen by Bank of America which oversees the debit cards where benefits are deposited.

The state auditor issued recommendations to fix those issues and believes the problem has been fixed.

RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Private EDD survey shows users are 'completely or mostly satisfied' despite complaints
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The EDD's annual customer satisfaction survey, not meant for public view, found the department was doing a satisfactory job assisting the unemployed.



"They've provided enough information to the bank to unfreeze the accounts and they are continuing to work with them on that," said Margarita Fernandez of the State Auditor's office.

The ID.Me verification system has been another sore point for applicants.

Most of the improvements suggested by the state auditor have been implemented, and at last report, 91% have successfully verified their identity using the system.

That's up from 83%.

"I believe there's still some issues related to language access and so forth," she said.

Surprisingly the auditor has not done any recent reviews about the EDD's antiquated computer technology nor its troubled phone system. Last week the agency received 1.7 million calls, but could only answer 7% of those calls.

The auditor responds to requests from the state legislature and the auditor's office says no one has requested it.

"It's not unique to unemployment that many states have tried and failed to modernize the technology," said Stettner of the Century Foundation.

Read the Auditor's first report, regarding identification verification and ID.Me.

Read the Auditor's second report, regarding issues with Bank of America and frozen accounts.

If you're one of the thousands who are still waiting for payments, you will get back pay for any benefits you should have received up to now, that includes the extra $300 per week bonus that expired September 4. Those benefits are calculated and added for any weeks you were eligible, prior to September 4.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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