Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, shelved three Republican Employment Development Department reform bills last week, including one by state Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk.
“We passed a lot of reform bills, they’re in the Senate. These were duplicative,” Gonzalez tweeted in response to a tweet by Politico reporter Jeremy B. White noting the Appropriations Committee led by Gonzalez killed all of the Republican EDD bills.
The unemployment fraud cost California has at least $11 billion with another $19 billion reportedly under investigation.
Wilk’s bill, SB 58, would require the Employment Development Department to immediately end the practice of including full Social Security numbers on its most frequently mailed documents.
The other reform bills held Aug. 26 in Assembly Appropriations were:
• SB 39 by Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, which would require the EDD to cross-check prison inmate records with unemployment claims to prevent benefits from illegally going to prisoners.
• SB 232 by Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Red Bluff, would implement the State Auditor’s recommendations from the previous three audits of EDD.
“California completely failed its unemployed during the pandemic and today failed them again,” Wilk said in a statement. “The Assembly Democrats hid behind a gutless procedure to shelve legislation that would have addressed many of EDD’s problems. These were good, common-sense solutions recommended by the state auditor. Good solutions shouldn’t have party lines — unfortunately, that was not the case today.”
Wilk also pointed out that the shelving of these three bills to reform the Employment Development Department comes just one week after another scathing audit report was released by the state auditor.
Many of the issues at the Employment Development Department were magnified as a result of economic upheaval caused by COVID-19, Wilk noted. However, failures at Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Employment Development Department date as far back as 2013, Wilk said. At its height, the department had a backlog of more than one million claims of residents needing to get their benefits.
“I am at a loss to explain why the Democrat majority decided to hold this important bill [SB 39] that has received unanimous, bipartisan support this year,” Grove said in a statement. “Governor Newsom’s EDD is the most mismanaged department in the country with audits finding billions of dollars in fraud since last year’s government shutdown. SB 39 is a common-sense effort to cut down on fraud committed by state prison inmates, a policy that most states have already implemented.”
Nielsen also released a statement blasting the fate of the bills.
“Governor Newsom and the Democrat-controlled Legislature don’t have the courage to take on powerful bureaucracies, like the EDD — clearly a failed agency,” he said. “It’s unconscionable. Of the issues that could have been fast-tracked earlier this year, fixing the EDD should have been at the top of the priority list. This shows a callous disregard for the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Californians who are unemployed because of the governor’s lockdown orders. It adds insult to injury that unemployed workers still have to pay their bills on time, while the EDD can’t even answer the phone to help them get their benefit checks.”