The backlog of claims for unemployment benefits filed by California workers has been stuck over 1 million for more than a month, according to the Employment Development Department.
As of Tuesday, the EDD’s dashboard was the official measure of how far the state labor department lags in paying unemployed workers who have lost their jobs amid the COVID-19 outbreak and related shutdowns.
On March 10, according to the most recent update, 1.06 million claims have taken more than 21 days for the EDD to process. That includes 933,100 initial unemployment claims and 122,700 continuing claims.
An initial claim is deemed to be part of the backlog if it has taken more than 21 days to issue the first payment or to disqualify the claim. A continuing claim is placed in the backlog if the worker has received at least one payment and is now waiting more than 21 days for more payments or disqualification from the program.
The EDD began tracking the claims’ backlog in a dashboard format starting Sept. 30, and for six weeks all seemed well. On Jan. 6, the backlog had dropped to 516,000 claims. Then matters deteriorated, and the agency reported a surge in the claims bottleneck, which soared past 1 million on Feb. 3.
In late January, the EDD distanced itself from its own dashboard, saying it was working on a new version that would more accurately reflect the state of the logjam.
“We aim to launch that dashboard in the next few weeks,” the EDD stated on its website in a post that’s nearly two months old.
What is known is that for six consecutive weeks, the combined backlog of claims has been at least 1 million filings stuck in limbo in each of the weekly reporting periods, according to the EDD dashboard.
Separately, a different report suggests the EDD has faltered in its efforts to make the first payments to workers who have filed initial claims for unemployment.
The U.S. Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration issues a monthly report that includes the number of monthly initial claims made in each state and how many first-time payments were made in that month.
For January, the most recent month reported by the Labor Department, California workers filed about 506,100 initial claims for unemployment, and the EDD made 89,600 first-time payments to workers — a gap of 416,500 claims to payments.
The gap for EDD’s first payments was 666,400 in December, 558,900 in November, 551,300 in October, and 723,800 in September 2020.
During the final two months before the business shutdowns began, the gap between initial claims and first payments by the EDD, was 119,900 in January 2020 and 80,500 in February 2020.
In March 2020, the first month of the lockdowns, the gap ballooned to 1.44 million.
“Our program data folks have been working hard on this project the past several weeks and we’re very close to sharing the finalized product,” the EDD said at the time.
The EDD has come under fire from unemployed workers, state lawmakers and the state auditor for an array of failures related to unemployment benefits.
Among the criticisms:
— The EDD has failed to make payments to workers on a timely basis, due in part to a broken phone call center and a computer system hobbled by glitches.
— EDD blunders have opened the gates to a flood of fraudulent claims.
The state agency paid $10.4 billion to claimants with unverified identities and $810 million to prison inmates. The EDD admitted in January 2021 that the total fraud could reach $31 billion.
Source: Orange County Register