EDD applicants find themselves in 'purgatory' without an approval or denial

Friday, July 24, 2020
EDD applicants find themselves in 'purgatory' without an approval or denial
Experts predicted that a disaster like this could befall the unemployment insurance system years ago. Now, there are class action lawsuits in several states against their unemployment departments for the mishandling of the claims stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Here is the question pouring into our newsroom these days: "When does the $600 coronavirus unemployment payment end?" The answer is the end of this month -- if Congress doesn't act.

While many are asking if there will be an EDD extension in unemployment payments, others are asking, "Can I just get the money from the first round I am owed?"

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Most of us are not familiar with the EDD login process or filing for EDD unemployment benefits.

Thank goodness.

The application process is hard. The application form itself when printed out is 12 pages long. A dozen pages asking for very personal information about your identity and work life.

Once the form is turned in, you might think the application is either approved or denied, but Carole Vigne, an attorney for the nonprofit group Legal Aid At Work, says there is a third option.

"I think the biggest frustration of all is for the workers in limbo, who haven't received their benefits and haven't received their denials," she says.

Approval is best because you get your California EDD payments, but denials at least allow you to appeal.

WATCH FAQ with EDD: From getting through on the phone to $600 payments, 7 On Your Side gets your questions answered

The frustration is clear. 7 On Your Side tries to answer all your questions regarding EDD, unemployment and what's happening with your benefits.

"A lot of workers are being deprived of that right now because they are not getting the denial that is needed," she says.

I ask her, "So they are in purgatory?"

She answers, "Absolutely. That is the perfect word for it. It is a perfect purgatory."

Jason Middleton knows all about that 'perfect purgatory.'

"I was doing PR," he tells me, "until the first week of June... and I was let go on my birthday, June the 4th."

A Silicon Valley journalist, even Jason can't get answers, much less the $600 federal payment.

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"I did get a human on the phone, but without what they call a 'letter of termination' from the EDD, which is an official denial, you cannot appeal anything," he says. "So I am stuck. I haven't been approved, I haven't been denied. I have just been disqualified for a reason I cannot find."

Another EDD failure, and it should not come as a surprise.

National Employment Law Project attorney, George Wentworth, predicted a nation-wide system failure back in 2017.

In a piece for the political website, The Hill, he wrote, "... today the unemployment insurance program is in far worse shape than a decade ago, with many states gravely unprepared for the next inevitable downturn."

He told me that we need a national commitment.

"It is a fundamental right," he says, "for somebody who loses their job through no fault of their own, they should be able to receive an unemployment insurance benefit without having to run through an obstacle course to get it."

But that is long-term thinking. In the here and now, these issues are heading to the courts. Activists are asking judges to compel states to get these earned benefits out to those who earned them.

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A lawsuit has been filed in Florida, another in Nevada, one in Washington state, too. John Tirpak heads up the Seattle-based Unemployment Law Project.

"We have worked with the Sheraton law firm to file a writ in the Supreme Court to get the Employment Security Department to process claims and make timely payments," Tirpak says.

No suit has been filed in California, and none of the activists I have spoken with say they are preparing one. However if benefits continue to be withheld, that could change.

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

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