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Newsom Announces Unemployment Agency Strike Team, Reforms

The unemployment rate represents the number of people unemployed as a percent of the labor force. – Courtesy graph / EDD

Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the formation of an Employment Development Department (EDD) strike team, and a “renewed focus” on processing unpaid claims.

“There should be no barriers between Californians and the benefits they have earned,” said Newsom in a press releases issued Wednesday afternoon. “Unprecedented demand due to job loss during this pandemic paired with an antiquated system have created an unacceptable backlog of claims. Californians deserve better, and these reform efforts aim to move the Department in that direction.”

The strike team — which will be supported by the California Department of Technology (CDT) and the Office of Digital Innovation (ODI) — will identify steps to transform the unemployment insurance customer experience, including updates to their technology systems. Within 45 days, the strike team will deliver a roadmap that outlines short-, mid- and long-term recommendations and solutions to transform the customer experience of applying for and receiving UI benefits.

EDD will also begin addressing the backlog of unpaid claims. Prioritizing the oldest claims first, EDD is processing all claims in the “Pending Resolution” category and anticipates eliminating the backlog of actionable claims by the end of September. To assist with addressing the almost 1 million claims that may be eligible for payment with additional information, EDD will initiate immediate and weekly reminders to claimants to certify their claim. Going forward, EDD will work with the state legislature and advocates to create more user-friendly notifications and enhance the UI Online customer service experience.

EDD will also update Interactive Voice Response (IVR) automation with the goal of routing a caller to a call center representative who has specialized training with that specific issue.

Since March, EDD has processed more than 8 million unemployment insurance claims and distributed more than $49 billion in unemployment benefits. EDD has implemented several federal benefits programs since the onset of the pandemic, created a seven-days-a-week new call center for customer technical assistance needs, and both redirected and hired thousands of staff to assist Californians with information and resources.

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