SACRAMENTO (KRON) – California’s Employment Development Department has been an albatross on the state since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Horror stories of fraud, unanswered claims and dropped phone calls became common themes as millions of Californians attempted to file for unemployment since the start of the pandemic.
EDD released new data on their operations Thursday, as they try to catch up on the unprecedented amount of claims.
The most notable of which is the addition of 260 people to the call center which the department says are “top-level staff specially trained to research and resolve complex claims, answer questions and help claimants.”
The new additions join a total of 3,436 people now answering calls with an average wait time of 40 minutes once a caller is in the queue.
In addition, 11 weeks of back-benefits to the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation were processed last month. 185,000 claimants have been processed since January, exceeding the state’s Phase 2 goal which was supposed to end on March 7.
Overall, 20.7 million claims and $126 billion in unemployment benefits have been processed since the beginning of the pandemic – an amount that exceeds five times the number of claims filed during the worst year of the Great Recession over a decade ago.
Data on current outstanding claims was not readily available.
The department has also stepped up its fraud detection by implementing a new identification system ID.me.
A major loophole taken advantage of by fraudsters was the lack of income or employment verification for the Federal PUA program.
People who suspect that they are victims of identity theft also now have a designated phone line and reporting system.
More resources can be found on the department’s website here.