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Cannella, Vidak ask for EDD inquiry

POSTED October 17, 2013 6:44 p.m.

The prolonged delay in sending out unemployment benefits in September by the California Employment Development Department has prompted two state senators to request an oversight hearing.

State Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) and State Sen. Andy Vidak (R-Hanford) both have issued a call for a hearing into EDD’s practices and the reasons why nearly 150,000 Californians had their unemployment insurance benefits delayed in September.

The EDD undertook an update to the claims process on Labor Day. As a result, numerous claims were postponed and eventually had to be entered manually to clear the backlog.

Cannella and Vidak met with EDD senior staff and were told the problem was a one-time occurrence. But in a letter to the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee and the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Subcommittee, both the senators expressed concern that “EDD badly miscalculated the number of claimants that would be affected by the data conversion problems.”

“Given the severity of the problem, and its impact on our constituents, we feel that an informational and oversight hearing is warranted,” the letter states. “We would like the hearing to look into what happened to cause the significantly large number of delays, why such a large number of delays came as a surprise, why the Administration withheld information from the public and the Legislature on the problem for almost three weeks and what can be done to prevent such a problem from reoccurring in the future.”

Both the senators expressed concern that given the high rates of unemployment in both of their districts, the delay in payments caused undue burdens to their constituents. Stanislaus County’s unemployment rate in August, the last available month, was at 11.9 percent. Kings County, which includes Vidak’s district in Hanford, had an unemployment rate of 12 percent in August.

“Due the particularly high level of unemployment in our districts, this malfunction has had a significant impact on our constituents,” the letter states. “In fact, currently, it is one of the number one reasons for constituent calls to our district offices.  It is very unfortunate that, in addition to facing the hardship of unemployment and a job search, our constituents are now confronted with the challenge of having to navigate a system that unexpectedly cut them off from their UI checks.  Instead of looking for work, they now must focus on collecting their legitimate UI claims, all the while facing the consequences of late payments for services that are necessary for day to day living (e.g. mortgage, rent, utilities, etc.).   This added burden on our job-seeking constituents is absolutely unacceptable.”

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