The State Worker

Assembly chairman sets deadlines for Employment Development Department to shape up

As a followup to a hearing into delayed unemployment benefits that affected nearly 150,000 Californians, Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, issued a five-point letter Friday morning to the chief deputy director of the Employment Development Department that sets goals and deadlines for improving how the state handles jobless claims and interacts with the public.

Among the commonsense improvements: Better call center access, more information in more languages on EDD’s self-service website and better written explanations to claimants when there’s a problem with their claims instead of simply telling them to call EDD.

“The ongoing inability of the EDD call centers to respond to inquiries is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of the UI program for claimants,” Perea said wrote to EDD’s Sharon Hilliard. “When EDD experiences major events or systems problems (as it has in recent weeks) claimant access to call centers goes from bad to impossible.”

Perea chairs the Assembly Insurance Committee, which heard horror stories Wednesday from unemployed residents whose payments were delayed and from EDD staff who were overwhelmed with work after a computer-system conversion over the Labor Day weekend threw benefits payments off-track. Hilliard said during the hearing that the problems have been addressed.

An EDD email sent to The State Worker this afternoon contained this statement attributed to Hilliard:

“As expressed in the hearing, the EDD is very committed to providing the best customer service possible within our limited resources. We have already established work teams to review the Assembly Insurance Committee’s recommendations. These teams will be analyzing the policies mentioned and determining what actions, resources, and costs would be involved in implementing any such enhancements or changes. The results of such analysis will be included in our responses to the committee.”

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Assemblyman Henry Perea's Nov. 8 letter to EDD Deputy Director Sharon Hilliard

Editor’s note: This story was changed on Nov. 8 at 4:20 p.m. to include the EDD’s response to Perea’s letter.