Thousands of Californians face more delays in getting unemployment benefits

ByMichael Finney and Randall Yip KGO logo
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
EDD pandemic benefits in limbo until March
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Applicants for unemployment benefits in California must now wait until March 7 to re-apply due to what California's unemployment agency, the EDD, calls "programming infrastructure" issues.

SAN LEANDRO, Calif. (KGO) -- Desperate. That's how you might describe the situation for hundreds of thousands of jobless whose benefits remain stuck on hold.

Critics blame an antiquated EDD computer system for sucking many benefit decisions down a black hole. People like China Rathino end up paying the price.

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Rathino stays at home to care for three children while they learn remotely.

"They just got out of school. So this is India," says Rathino, introducing one of her children.

India isn't a big fan of distance learning. "It's easy to fall asleep," India told us.

7-year-old Faye doesn't like being home for school either, although she recently received a visit from the Tooth Fairy. And little sister Juliette isn't bashful about letting everyone know she's three.

"With the distance learning, I can't leave the kids home alone," their mom explained.

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Rathino quit her job at Amazon, saying she had no other choice without affordable child care. Her pandemic relief money recently expired, but Congress extended those benefits just as they were set to expire after Christmas last year. Still, this left a gap in coverage for many dependent on pandemic financial relief.

Recently, the EDD announced it won't be able to certify those new benefits at least until March 7, citing "programming infrastructure" issues -- angering Assemblymember James Patterson (R - Fresno).

What's the roadblock here?

"The roadblock to getting money to massive amounts of people who need it and need it desperately is the same old problem: dinosaur technology," Patterson said.

The delay in benefits has Rathino and her husband in a bind.

"You know, after we paid rent, we literally have $2.97 in our account," she said.

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When she checks on her benefits, she gets this message: "It kept saying that my payment was just pending. And it was stuck at pending. And it wasn't pushing through."

She has a scheduled interview with EDD this coming Saturday to answer some questions.

A recent state audit report blamed the lack of automation in EDD's computer system for delays in benefits.

Patterson predicts the delays will go beyond March 7 for many.

"We actually believe it is going to be weeks and weeks longer than that," said Assemblyman Patterson. "They are going to have to start processing and we know how their processing goes."

Adding to the confusion for Rathino, she received a letter from EDD in early January that her extended benefits had been approved. She says she has a better chance of winning the lottery than finding out what's causing the delay.

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