Thousands demanding answers for issues while trying to access unemployment benefits

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Since the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic, more than 8.7 million Californians have request unemployment or renewed benefits, but many of them, like Moses Sandoval, of Porterville, have yet to receive any money.

Sandoval says, "I try to call every day but there's no getting through to the E.D.D."

The Veteran and his wife ran a small business selling t-shirts and re-purposing pallets. When they had to shut down operations, Sandoval says within two weeks of filing for unemployment, he received a response saying it was approved.

"I got my letter saying it was an extension of my old claim. 'Go ahead and go start certifying,' which I did, but I have yet to receive any kind of payment or any kind of email from the E.D.D.. I'm waiting on a phone call. They said a specialist has to talk to me about my account for some reason."

With nine people now in his household, he wants to remain positive despite the waiting game.

Sandoval says, "if we just sit down and dwell on it, it's not going to make the situation any better. We've got to just get up every day and do what we got to do to put food on the table."

Assemblymember Jim Patterson says his office has received hundreds of complaints regarding issues with the Employment Development Department, including delays, dropped calls and outdated technology.

Which is why he called for an audit, that may not be heard.

Patterson says, "what we have is a canceled hearing in the midst of huge problems that Californians are facing because the E.D.D. is failing them."

Patterson says several whistleblowers inside the E.D.D. have come forward saying agents are being "mass hired" and "are not being given the proper tools to solve people's problems."

The Joint Legislative Audit Committee isn't scheduled for a hearing next week. It would have covered a number of audit requests, not just the Employment Development Department.

Patterson adds, "there's a very different atmosphere here because of the sheer size and number of Californians that have been hurt by this. We're going to stay on this E.D.D. until they fix these problems."

In a statement, the E-D-D says, "Unemployment benefits that support workers out of a job or working reduced hours in this historic pandemic have now reached a total of approximately $50 billion paid since March. Just last week alone, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) paid $4.1 billion in benefits, about $3.5 billion more than the highest week of the Great Recession ($542 million in February 2010. In addition, the EDD has processed a total of 8.7 million claims in the last 4 months between the regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, extensions, and the separate Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program - more than the entire highest year of the recession (8.1 million in 2010)."

Democratic Assemblymember Rudy Salas says, "I am disappointed that the Joint Legislative Audit Committee was not scheduled for a hearing next week. As Chair, I intend to seek emergency audit authority to have the State Auditor look into at least two pressing matters regarding unemployment insurance (EDD) and personal protective equipment (PPE). Californians deserve greater accountability and transparency during these unprecedented times."
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