Calling for changes at state employment department

Since this pandemic began, my office has received hundreds of calls from constituents requesting assistance with the Employment Development Department (EDD).

While I am proud of the efforts my staff and I have made to help every person who has called us, roadblocks and deficiencies at the EDD have kept too many from receiving the benefits to which they are entitled.

While Gov. Gavin Newsom has taken action to increase EDD staff and lengthen operational hours, it is not enough. More than 1 million Californians are still awaiting the benefits that they applied for months ago. This is simply unacceptable.

Recently, I joined Assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco and 60 of my legislative colleagues in calling for systemic change at the EDD and immediate action to help Californians track and receive their benefits.

On July 8, the EDD stated that “probably less than 1 percent” of claims took more than three weeks to process, but I knew from conversations with friends and neighbors that this simply could not be the case. The media then reported, based on federal Labor Department data, that nearly 2 million claims had yet to be fulfilled.

Transparency and straight answers

The public deserves transparency and straight answers on the status of claims and how the department is serving Californians, which is why I’m working to require that the EDD report weekly relevant data to the public and Legislature. Having accurate, up-to-date data will help us diagnose and solve problems within the department so constituents can have their claims processed in a timely manner.

I’ve also heard from too many constituents who have spent hours waiting on the phone trying to reach an EDD representative to no avail. A root cause of this problem is that the EDD’s Unemployment Insurance claims support number is only open for four hours a day. This call line needs to be expanded immediately, and the employees staffing the line need to be able to do more than relay basic information listed on the EDD’s website. I’ve called for both of these changes to be made, as well as asking that the EDD establish an automatic call back feature, end the practice of EDD representatives hanging-up on callers and increase training for call center staff so that they are more effective in addressing claims.

In addition to calling for other common-sense changes that can be made immediately, like allowing individuals to access and edit their initial application, the EDD needs a complete overhaul of its technology. So much of the EDD’s dysfunctionality is due to its 30-year-old computer system that uses a 60-year-old computer language. In 2016, the EDD began a modernization project that they estimated would take 11 years—an unacceptably long timeline that would result in any IT upgrades being outdated by the time the project was completed.

Need to act now

I have communicated to the governor that his EDD strike team needs to act now to review the project, shorten the project timeline and make recommendations that ensure monies are spent on true modernizations.

With the changes I’ve listed above and others that I have proposed, it is hopeful that we can bring necessary changes to the EDD to help Californians. In the meantime, my office is here to help you with issues at the EDD or any other state department. Please call my Concord district office at 925-521-1511 for assistance or to learn more about my work in Sacramento.

Reach Assemblyman Tim Grayson at (925) 521-1511. Visit or write the district office 2151 Salvio Street, Suite P, Concord, CA 94520.