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California says all delayed unemployment payments processed

October 03, 2013|By Ricardo Lopez
  • California's Employment Development Department says all backlogged unemployment benefits claims have been processed. Here, visitors use the unemployment insurance phone bank at the EDD office in Sacramento.
California's Employment Development Department says all backlogged… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

The state's Employment Development Department said late Wednesday that all backlogged unemployment benefits claims had been processed, ending a monthlong saga that affected tens of thousands of Californians after a computer glitch over Labor Day weekend halted payments.

State workers have been working overtime in recent days trying to clear the backlog of unemployment benefits claims that started when the California EDD upgraded its 30-year-old computer system. 

The new system, a spokeswoman said, had trouble converting old claims data and snared about 15% of claims filed since Sept. 1. The snafu affected about 124,000 Californians who rely on unemployment benefits to make ends meet. 

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“We know this has been a very difficult time for some of our customers...,” said Sharon Hilliard, the EDD's chief deputy director.  “The EDD is pleased to see our aggressive efforts succeed in eliminating our backlog of certifications."

EDD officials have been criticized for being slow to process the delayed payments and failing to communicate the extent of the problem to the public. Those affected reported falling behind on rent, car payments and other bills. 

Last week, after it became clear the agency was struggling to clear the  backlog, despite round-the-clock efforts, the state's top labor official ordered the EDD to immediately issue payments to claimants and verify eligibility later -- the equivalent of pay now, ask questions later. 

In a memo to Hilliard, Marty Morgenstern, secretary of labor and workforce development, called the situation unacceptable. 

Morgenstern noted the round-the-clock efforts by state workers but "even with these actions and others, it is unlikely that the claims backlog will be reduced quickly enough to respond to the very real financial hardship now being experienced by too many of our residents relying on timely payment of their [unemployment insurance] benefits."

The EDD said Wednesday that it paid $35 million in backlogged claims following Morgenstern's order. Since Sept. 1, the agency has paid $700 million to those in the employer-funded Unemployment Insurance program. 

The agency also said that Morgenstern's order applied to 101,000 claims. Of those, 81,000 were processed and paid, said Loree Levy, an EDD spokeswoman. The remaining 20,000 claims were deemed ineligible for the expedited payments, Levy said. 


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