This is the last week for those on unemployment to receive the extra $600 in benefits that was granted by the federal government.

Everyone who qualified for their state’s unemployment insurance got the extra $600, regardless of their previous wages. That, in itself is a cause of worry for many receiving unemployment. But what about those who have yet to receive any money?

We’ve all heard the nightmarish stories about how someone applied for unemployment but never got a confirmation or any money, for that matter, and have been waiting months. Meanwhile, their bills are piling up, they’re unable to pay rent or buy food and they don’t know where to turn.

Assemblyman Tom Lackey, representing the 36th Assembly District, has heard some of these stories and he is now calling for an audit of the Employment Development Department.

“The frustration with the Employment Development Department (EDD) has reached a tipping point,” a letter to his constituents said. “Every day, my office is contact by members of the community whose livelihoods have been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. I have heard countless stories of families struggling to get by, single-income homes worried about where their next meal will come from and young people unable to make rent. It is time for the EDD to be held accountable for the hardships it has amplified in the lives of millions. I am calling for an internal audit of the Employment Development Department to address the negligence and severe understaffing of the institution during this COVID-19 crisis.”

He goes on to say the audit is long overdue and this is an opportunity to show the EDD that their actions cannot go unchecked and that the people of California deserve better.

In supporting documentation, a letter from Assemblyman Jim Patterson, representing the 23rd District, addressed to The Honorable Rudy Salas, chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, says his office has received dozens of complaints from constituents who had been waiting weeks for their EDD-provided Bank of America debit card.

“We learned from Bank of America that the delay was caused by the EDD’s failure to submit all the names and information required — the final step in the unemployment process,” the letter states. “According to data from Deloitte Consulting, during one week in May, out of 1.5 million total phone calls from 600,000 unique calls, only 150,000 were able to speak to a live person. This means 75 percent of people calling did not get the attention they so desperately needed. These numbers do not include recurring hand-ups that have been widely described by callers who get through to a representative, only to be disconnected mid-conversation – an issue that has been commonplace since before the pandemic.”

The letter says Californians cannot wait any longer for these issues to be addressed and points out that the response and processing times over the past 15 weeks have not improved.

“My office alone has worked on nearly 800 cases since March 16, with new cases still coming in daily,” the letter states. It’s signed by Patterson, Sen. Shannon Grove, 16th District; Sen. Brian Dahle, 1st District; Sen. Andreas Borgeas, 8th District; Sen. Scott Wilk, 21st District; Sen. Patricia C. Bates, 36th District; Assemblymember Megan Dahle, 1st District; Assemblymember Frank Bigelow, 5th District; Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, 6th District; Assemblymember Devon J. Mathis, 26th District; Assemblymember Jay Obernolte, 33rd District; Assemblymember Vince Fong, 34th District; Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham, 35th District; Assemblymember Tom Lackey, 36th District; Assemblymember Philip Chen, 55th District; Assemblymember Steven S. Choi, 68th District; Assemblymember William P. Brough, 73rd District.

We are glad that Lackey, Wilk and the other senators and assemblymembers are taking the necessary steps to figure out what’s broken at the EDD. Because of the pandemic, there are many more people that need those benefits to survive. Kudos to those elected officials who care enough to help their constituents.

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