Since mid-March, 2.7 million Californians have filed for unemployment benefits — more than all of the claims California processed in 2019 combined.
The state’s Employment Development Department has been overwhelmed, causing delays for many people seeking assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The people in Sacramento are making promises, and the bureaucracies and the technology are failing the people,” said Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno.
Call Center Expands to 12 Hours Daily, 7 Days a Week
On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state’s call center will expand its hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.
More than 1,300 state employees have been reassigned to help process the claims.
Newsom also said the state will begin distributing federal unemployment benefits by the end of the month to people who usually aren’t eligible for them — including gig workers and the self-employed.
At least five other states are already issuing those benefits, prompting criticism from Patterson and other state lawmakers.
The Governor announced today that starting April 20th, EDD phone lines will be open 8am-8pm, 7 days a week.
Let me know if you are able to get through. My office is available at (559) 446-2029 if you need answers on your application or EDD questions. https://t.co/mSO8DB78aD
— Jim Patterson (@JimPatterson559) April 15, 2020
Patterson Is Watchdog Over State Bureaucracy
Patterson, a former Fresno mayor, has been able to get bipartisan support for improving troubled state agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles.
He started pushing for DMV reforms in 2016 and while those were largely ignored by Gov. Jerry Brown, Newsom ordered a DMV Reinvention Strike Team in 2019.
(Associated Press contributed to this article.)