Three months after a California Employment Development Department computer crash cut off tens of thousands of Californians from their unemployment benefits, the EDD’s system does not function properly.
EDD by phone
The EDD offices officially are now only open four hours a day, from 8:00 am to noon, according to their website.
I called the EDD hotline, 1-866-333-4606. It’s an information-only recorded message, which eventually tells the caller to file for unemployment benefits on the EDD website; or call 800-300-5616, the designated phone line for filing for unemployment benefits. I called that second number. The recorded message says, “We are currently experiencing more calls than we can answer.” It refers the caller back to the information-only recorded message phone line.
Ironically, the recorded message on the EDD phone line for filing for unemployment claims recommends claimants only call after 5:00 pm, before 8:00 am, or on Saturday or Sunday – that is, after hours and on weekends.
The recorded message tells callers the fastest way to file an unemployment insurance claim is through the EDD website, and tells callers to allow 10 days for processing online, or by phone.
Then the message abruptly says, “Goodbye,” and the call is terminated. There is no opportunity to file an unemployment claim on the phone.
The recorded phone messages provide a smorgasbord of general information, most of which I found unreliable as they just refer to phone messages that disconnect, or to the website which also is largely a dead end.
Updated software was designed and installed by EDD Contractor Deloitte Consulting to create more online access for existing claims. EDD representatives said at a November 6 Assembly hearing that a computer “glitch” delayed the payments for tens of thousands of Californians. According to News 10, Deloitte “has already been paid at least $46 million” for the project.
Deloitte Consulting also was awarded a contract for another malfunctioning government computer project. The IRS gave the firm $12.9 million to ”deliver world class implementation” of the Affordable Care Act, usually called Obamacare.
The Deloitte contract was awarded two months after the Government Accountability Office found serious fault with the way the IRS was handling the implementation of the ACA, when the IRS could not account for “$67 million that was set aside in a slush fund to help pay for Obamacare,” Forbes Magazine reported. The GAO link no longer works, but the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration addressed the IRS mishandling in a September report.
Jason Salzetti, Deloitte’s company’s California principal, told the Los Angeles Times the company hoped for a permanent fix in “the next few weeks.” But that was a month ago and there’s still no permanent fix.
The emails obtained by the News 10 exposé show it was two weeks before managers at EDD even realized there were problems with their software upgrade, according to testimony at the November oversight hearing.
When the newly updated taxpayer-funded system was released, it created a massive backlog of unpaid unemployment payments. When EDD tried to catch up on the payments, the U.S. Department of Labor even blamed EDD for boosting the national unemployment rate, labor Recruiter.com reported.
I contacted News 10 reporter Thom Jensen by email, and asked if the EDD had ever responded to the News 10 Public Records Request. But I did not hear back from Jensen.
On its website, the EDD claims: “The EDD promotes California’s economic health by providing information to help people understand California’s economy and make informed labor market choices.”
On the EDD Facebook page, some frustrated claimants said they have contacted their Assembly representatives and have had some success getting through to the EDD with the legislative help. However, even that can take weeks or months.
One EDD claimant told me she contacted Gov. Jerry Brown’s office out of frustration when her repeated requests for help from EDD for ongoing claims went unanswered. She said a governor’s office representative revealed they are aware of the problem, but told the woman she should not expect a response from the EDD in less than 30 days.