California unemployment: New EDD call center employees finish training, wait time still 40 minutes

A year into the pandemic and the state's unemployment call center is still overwhelmed with callers.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A year into the pandemic and the state's unemployment call center is still overwhelmed with callers.

On Thursday, the Employment Development Department announced that 251 new call center workers completed the department's expedited training program earlier this week.

But even with nearly 3,500 agents, the average wait time to reach someone is about 40 minutes.

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Also, fraud remains a big issue. EDD spokeswoman Loree Levy says California is not alone.

"Of course the issue of unprecedented fraud is much bigger than just California. It is indeed a nationwide issue. Virtually every state in the nation is experiencing a barrage of fraudulent activity on a scale we have just simply never seen before. The US Labor Department Inspector General's office estimates that more than $63 billion nationally has been paid out improperly through fraud or errors," Levy said.

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The department said that if unemployed Californians receive a tax form they don't agree with -- or think is a result of identity theft -- the EDD has established a dedicated phone line with an additional 300 agents to assist.

Levy also stressed that the EDD is working to improve the clarity of its instructions on its website so that people can better understand how to apply and certify for their benefits. "We continue seeking to improve the information available to customers about how to file for unemployment, and certify their eligibility for payment every two weeks. Every customer who understands the information on the website, or our automated phone system, is of course one less call into the call center and every word matters to us," she said. Levy also said that the EDD is expanding language access by translating more documents and forms into languages other than English and Spanish.

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