How much of this is EDD’s fault?

In many ways, the implosion of California’s job safety net was easy to see coming. The Employment Development Department “has been aware of deficiencies with its claim process and call center for years,” a January state audit found. “Nonetheless, in March 2020, EDD had no comprehensive plan for how it would respond if California experienced a recession.”

EDD director Rita Saenz makes opening comments during a budget subcommittee hearing on unemployment insurance on Jan. 26, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

From months-long application backlogs to never-ending customer service calls, outdated technology, high staff turnover and sloppy handling of Social Security numbers, the laundry list of problems under investigation by state officials is still growing.

The biggest challenge during the pandemic, officials have told lawmakers, was balancing how to pay out benefits both quickly and securely, since those two priorities often clash.