UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

How can you contact the EDD?

The California Legislature has come up with a workaround for Californians struggling to contact the agency responsible for unemployment benefits.

How can you contact the EDD?
JUSTIN SULLIVAN AFP

Since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) has been inundated with calls from Californians trying to file unemployment claims. The inability of the agency to handle the deluge has caused frustration and forced them to seek help elsewhere.

Due to the high volume of people filing unemployment claims it has been near impossible to get through to the agency responsible for unemployment benefits. Governor Gavin Newsom tried to remedy the problem by ordering EDD to expand call center hours and increase the number of staff to process claims.

EDD has since added thousands of new staff to answer phones but the agency says that it takes months of training them to handle complex cases. The agency also put a new phone system in place this spring to put callers in a virtual queue. When their turn comes up a service representative will return the call.

But the agency is still leaving thousands of calls unanswered. The most recent data shows that for the week ending 26 June shows the agency received slightly more than 3 million calls of which 264,820 were from unique callers, meaning many people tried several times. Of those unique callers 242,235 got through leaving over 22,000 who never got to talk to a live person.

How are people contacting EDD?

Out of frustration, Californians have taken to calling their Assembly members and senators. As a result the lawmakers have been swamped by frustrated constituents looking for help to deal with confusing rules and requirements for the unemployment program and to complain about the service EDD is providing.

So much so that the Assembly has authorized all 80 members to add two full-time staffers just to handle communications for their constituents with the EDD which was first reported by the Sacramento Bee. This follows a similar move by the Senate in February allowing one dedicated staff member for the same purpose.

“We’re committed to helping our constituents navigate a whole host of issues caused by the pandemic, especially EDD benefits, which is why the Senate reallocated existing resources so that we could hire an additional staffer for every member’s office, specifically to help with COVID and unemployment issues,” Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins said in a statement.

To find your Assembly member or senator click here.

The EDD reports that there are currently 215,601 claims in its backlog of claims past 21 days processing. EDD has had over 23 million claims filed and $157 billion in benefits since the pandemic began in March 2020. It’s paid 85.3% of the claims within a week of receiving the first certification.