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California Lawmakers Upset Over Unemployment Failings

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Sacramento, CA — The agency that distributes unemployment benefits is coming under fire at the state capitol.

The head of the California Employment Development Department, Sharon Hilliard, was criticized for the agency’s shortcomings over recent months at a legislative hearing held yesterday. The agency has received a spike in unemployment claims since March due to millions of Californians losing their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

The overall number of claims were up by around 3,000-percent from March to May. Hilliard stated that the state has paid out $55 billion, including federal money, across 9.3 million claims. However, about 1/5 of the claims, or 1.2 million, haven’t been paid out. Hilliard stated that there is a backlog because officials need to verify their accuracy or have applicants submit more information.

Democratic Assemblyman Ted Chiu stated that the department is “failing California” and the delays are forcing constituents to deplete savings and go into deep debt.

This week Governor Gavin Newsom announced the creation of a strike team to look at ways to improve operations. It includes hiring a company by October to redo the EDD’s information technology system.

A group of Republican lawmakers, led by Assemblyman Jim Patterson, have also requested an audit of the agency.

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