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GOP Attack on Newsom Misses Mark, but California’s Unemployment Program Remains a Hot Mess



California allowed massive fraud in the dispersal of federal COVID benefits, and still hasn’t fixed its problems, says Dan Walters. (Shutterstock)
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Kevin Kiley, a freshman Republican congressman who represents Sacramento suburbs and parts of the Sierra foothills, posted a characteristic swipe at Gov. Gavin Newsom last week on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Dan Walters with a serious expression

Dan Walters



Reacting to news that California still owes the federal government $18 billion in loans taken out to pay unemployment insurance benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kiley said, “This is why Newsom is the Deadbeat Governor. After he and Julie Su squandered $30 billion in fraud, he took out a federal loan to make up for it – only now to default on that loan. As a result, California businesses are being taxed to pay it back.”

The posting was about half fact and half falsehood, but the real story is equally damning, not only of Newsom and Su, the one-time Newsom administration official whose nomination as U.S. secretary of labor has been stalled in the Senate, but of California’s decades-long mismanagement of unemployment insurance.

The Employment Development Department, which was part of Su’s managerial portfolio, imploded when millions of Californians suddenly lost their jobs three years ago after Newsom shut down much of the state’s economy.

Naturally, those jobless workers filed for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits but EDD botched the job, adversely affecting the lives of their families. To keep state UI benefits flowing, however haphazardly, the state borrowed about $20 billion from the federal government.

Tens of Billions of Dollars in Fraud

About the Author

Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. He began his professional career in 1960, at age 16, at the Humboldt Times. CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more columns by Dan Walters, go to

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Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. He has written more than 9,000 columns about the state and its politics and is the founding editor of the “California Political Almanac.” Dan has also been a frequent guest on national television news shows, commenting on California issues and policies.

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