Lawmakers take aim at Newsom, demand EDD reform after a million unemployment claims go unanswered

If you have not received your unemployment check, you are not alone. 

The backlog, according to Employment Development Department officials, is more than a million claims. The department admits they are overwhelmed and have been given until next month to clear the problem, but a group of state legislators are saying enough is enough.

Five months into the COVID-19 crisis, it is not much easier today, to get through to the office, than it was back then. 

"Every time you try to call them, email them, they say they're unable due to the amount of calls and emails they're getting," said Alexis Gaxiola, who lost her job due to COVID-19 and hasn't received an unemployment check since May.

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Over half of California adults have reported a loss of income since the start of the pandemic with the state's unemployment rate currently at 17 percent, officials said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented job losses, with many Californians relying on state assistance that has yet to come. 

The California legislature sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom's office saying plainly, "it's clear that EDD is failing." 

In the letter, 61 lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans, requested immediate action to make sure that EDD service representatives are actually answering phones for more than four hours a day, that they don’t hang up on people saying it’s too late to help them and a call back system that takes less than six weeks to respond. 

Assemblyperson Miguel Santiago spoke to FOX 11 and suggested that people having issues call their legislator. He has staff members trying to reach EDD for his constituents in the 53rd District. Other legislators are doing the same. 

EDD staffers are under immense pressure to process a mountain of unemployment claims -- more than a million -- and the load will only get heavier, officials said.

That's why the legislature is asking for more transparency regarding unprocessed claims and more accountability from the EDD to own for its shortcomings. 

"It has nearly been impossible to get straight answers from EDD on most inquiries," assemblymembers said in the joint letter to Newsom. Adding, "When we have asked for simple, factual information--such as how many have remained unfulfilled, for how long, in different categories, rejected for what reasons--we have been met with long-winded excuses, fumbling non-answers, or unclear and inconsistent data."

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Assemblymembers are asking that EDD clear its entire backlog of unprocessed claims before the end of September, which it promised in a recent announcement. Lawmakers said that date is pushing it, as some Californians will have gone almost seven months without a single payment from the state. 

KTVU's Aja Seldon contributed to this report.