California unemployment: EDD under fire after many Americans left helpless and frustrated

FRESNO, Calif. -- A California legislator is calling for an audit of the Employment Development Department as many across the state are still struggling to get benefits.

More than 6 million California workers have filed for unemployment since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic but many of them, like 31-year-old Ryan Turner of Fresno, have received little to no benefits.

"I got a payment for the week of March 22 to April 7th - just the one week - and nothing since," he says.

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ABC7 News' Kristen Sze spoke with Loree Levy with California's Employment Development Department Wednesday afternoon to discuss common questions applicants have when filing for unemployment benefits.

Turner was let go from his paralegal job in March, and is one of the 800 people Assemblymember Jim Patterson says has called his office regarding issues with the Employment Development Department.

Patterson says he's fed up with the delays, dropped calls, and outdated technology, and is now requesting the EDD be audited.

"This is a monumental failure at a time when millions of Californians need it most," says Patterson.

In a letter, Patterson says during one week in May, only 150,000 people were able to speak to a live person out of 1.5 million total phone calls.

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The labor department has faced backlash since the start of the pandemic but Patterson says the EDD has a long history of problems.

"When we turn the state auditor loose and put these bureaucracies under the white light of accountability and find the problems more often than not, we deal with them," he says.

Our sister station Action News in Fresno reached out to the EDD for a response, but have yet to get one.

Their website states they've paid out more than $33.5 billion in benefits, and they're in the process of a hiring effort with the goal of filling nearly 5,000 positions.

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Patterson hopes for a better online system and more answers through an audit.

Those still waiting on a response, like Turner, are just hoping to receive some help to make ends meet.

"It's been frustrating to ask for support from family members. The head of the EDD is making money and there's all these people that are not," he says.
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