SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As the coronavirus pandemic raged, throwing millions out of their jobs, Californians turned to the one agency that could save them from financial ruin: the Employment Development Department.
The federal government had just pumped $40 billion into the state coffers to ensure no one would go hungry or homeless. Instead, a clumsy, outdated bureaucracy left millions in the lurch, throwing barriers in the way of payments even as it opened the floodgates for scammers to collect as much as $31 billion of taxpayer money.
Millions struggling with no income tried to go up against an unresponsive bureaucracy - as they sank deep into despair.
Now, 18 months after the pandemic began, lives are forever changed, the impacts lingering to this day. We show the stories of a mother who had to send her children away, a family that lost EDD benefits as COVID-19 swept through their entire household, and a single mother who resorted to living in a car with her little boy. Now legislators ask, "Why are we doing this to people?"
Californians are frustrated, angry, confused and living on the edge of financial ruin, or worse. The recent surge in pandemic-related unemployment claims is unprecedented, but why was the state so unprepared, and how did things get so wildly off track?
ABC7 is taking a deeper look at the crisis in 7 On Your Side's special investigation "Broke: California's Unemployment Crisis."
Michael Finney and the 7 On Your Side team investigate the California EDD's decades-long history of troubles and catastrophic failures.
Spotlighting the devastating impact, trace the failings back through decades of missed opportunities to overhaul the system, and search for the solutions millions of people desperately need.
Watch "Broke, California's Unemployment Crisis" on the ABC7 Bay Area streaming app on your favorite streaming device now.
MORE STORIES ABOUT CALIFORNIA EDD:
- EDD to issue 'conditional payments' to clear backlog, but critics remain skeptical
- California EDD adopts 'pay now' policy, will begin paying benefits to qualified claimants Friday
- EXCLUSIVE: Private EDD survey shows users are 'completely or mostly satisfied' despite complaints
- Unemployed people must look for work to continue receiving benefits, EDD says
- EDD mails Bay Area woman's private information to stranger, raising fears of identity theft