A high demand for services coupled with funding struggles, have combined for long delays and frustrations for many applying for benefits through EDD. For John Atkinson of San Francisco, his case became a desperate situation.
"We are experiencing high volume of calls which may result in longer delays than usual."
That was the standard message Atkinson heard each time he called the Employment Development Department.
Atkinson is dealing both with a heart condition and cancer and received a letter from the EDD awarding him disability benefits.
"The one little detail they didn't put in there was how to collect my money. Minor little set back," Atkinson said.
He tried to call EDD to get more information.
However, he said after spending five minutes on hold each time, he would be disconnected.
"And they encourage you to apply online. Fast, simple and easy. No, it isn't. They cannot answer question one about how to get my money," Atkinson said.
EDD acknowledges its had delays particularly with unemployment claims.
It's in the process of hiring nearly 300 employees to handle the phones after funding was restored.
"It's about $43 million in existing funds that we can now start putting to use right away. Start the hiring process right away for about 280 more staff and also allows us the ability to continue to use overtime in processing claim work, otherwise that would have had to have been cut," EDD spokesperson Loree Levy said.
The money is earmarked specifically for its unemployment program.
That means the disability program won't get additional staff to answer the phones.
EDD says its disability program hasn't had the same challenges as its unemployment program.
But admits there are limits on the number of calls the current staff can handle.
"Could not get through to any living human being," Atkinson said.
And that meant for him the situation was getting desperate.
"It was very stressful, you know I need that extra income. In my shoes, any little bit helps," Atkinson said.
He finally called 7 On Your Side and we contacted EDD.
"I try three and a half weeks, couldn't get anywhere. Made one phone call to channel seven, everything works," Atkinson said.
Turns out EDD had put a stop payment on his benefit because it thought he had retired and wasn't eligible for disability.
Atkinson retired from Merchant Marines last year due to his disability, but is looking for less strenuous work.
He is now receiving his benefits.
EDD says if you can't get through on the phone, you can leave your question online and it will be answered within 48 hours.