As residents of one of the highest taxed states in the nation, Californians have a right to expect the government they pay handsomely to provide the basic services their taxes fund.
For instance, we expect that when we have an emergency and we dial 9-1-1, help will arrive in a burst of flashing lights, sirens, and hurried professionals. We also expect that when we lose our job, the money we paid in unemployment insurance will be available to sustain our families in a time of personal crisis. We expect that the state agency entrusted with this serious obligation will be able to handle our application for help. We expect that banks are a safe and secure place to keep our money, and that when we have money in an account at Bank of America, the money which belongs to us will not mysteriously disappear one day.
EDD has blamed their computers, lack of staff, and been given multiple opportunities for improvement, even halting claims processing for a two-week period for a system ‘reset.’
Regrettably, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, these expectations have been dashed for the most vulnerable Californians relying on Unemployment Insurance (UI). Our state’s agencies and financial institutions have failed them and been unable to deliver the safety and security that they promised.
This is unacceptable, and these institutions must be held to account for their extreme failure.
Since late March when California shut down businesses and schools to slow the spread of COVID-19, my staff has helped thousands of constituents who were unable to secure their unemployment insurance from an overwhelmed and backlogged EDD. EDD has blamed their computers, lack of staff, and been given multiple opportunities for improvement, even halting claims processing for a two-week period for a system ‘reset.’ All to no avail.
How could an agency in the state of California, the fifth -largest economy in the world and home to one of the greatest technological development centers in the world (Silicon Valley), be so unequal to the task at hand?
If that were not bad enough, in October, many of our constituents reported that their EDD debit cards distributed and managed by Bank of America were frozen.
EDD and Bank of America then proceeded to engage in a finger-pointing exercise. EDD has said they did not take back the funds and in fact there is no way they could take back the funds. EDD staff told constituents that they should call Bank of America. In turn, Bank of America would tell the constituent it was due to an identity verification issue and that they should call EDD.
Meanwhile, the constituent was without money to pay the rent and buy groceries for his or her family. This happened to an estimated 350,000 Californians, whose trust in systems that were designed to provide safety, security, and stability were broken once again.
Just days after this unfortunate news came out, further scandal surrounding the EDD was revealed when nine local district attorneys throughout California went public with evidence of mass fraud involving federal, state, and county inmates who have scammed an estimated $2 billion in fraudulent Unemployment Insurance claims.
EDD has reached a new level of ineptitude when death row murderers are getting their UI claims processed while hard-working Californians who are owed their benefits get denied.
California constituents are not getting the answers they deserve. California legislators are not getting satisfactory answers either.
Legislators and constituents alike deserve a full accounting of where California taxpayer money has gone. It is time for the Legislature to step in and hold immediate investigative hearings to determine what went wrong and ensure this never happens again. Clearly, the EDD is incapable of rectifying their system, and Californians deserve better.
The government has to face the fact that we have broken trust with the citizens of our state by not functioning as we should have. We must work diligently to fix this.
We must earn that trust back.
Editor’s Note: Assemblywoman Megan Daghle, R-Bieber, represents the 1st Assembly District.