CALISTOGA, Calif. (KGO) – The additional $ 600 per week in unemployment benefits should end this the week. And there are still thousands in California who have not received any benefits.

UNEMPLOYMENT IN CA: Here’s why thousands of people still aren’t enjoying EDD benefits

Frustration with ESD is mounting. Complaints are pour into at 7 on your side. Michael Finney has investigated what is wrong with ESD.

We have looked at hundreds of cases and virtually all of them appear to be clearly entitled to benefits. Yet people are hitting brick walls at ESD – and some say they may never fully recover.

After months of no income, tens of thousands of Californians still have no unemployment benefits.

“I must have called them hundreds of times and I wouldn’t get a hold of anyone,” said Melissa Gutierrez, who was fired from her job as a bartender in Berkeley when the order to set up a shelter went down. closed bars across the state.

“The day I was made redundant, I opened my application. The following Monday, there were no more. It happened to me four weeks in a row,” said Patricia Tierney, who lost her job. of office director in a private school which has closed its doors. due to the pandemic.

It is an endless stream of frustration as the unemployed run out of money.

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“It spins and spins and nothing,” said Robert Leppert of Vacaville, who was fired from his job as a printer at Staples.

“I am fully eligible for unemployment. I have worked 40 years of my life and – I’m sorry but it’s very upsetting,” Ima Holcomb from Calistoga broke down in tears as she recounted how she lost her job at a trade association. . for the vineyards of Napa Valley as a direct result of the pandemic. “EDD doesn’t believe it,” she said, wiping away tears.

Their jobs gone, their savings wiped out, their emotions raw and all they get are automated ESD responses.

Holcomb shows a typical phone call to EDD, as she tries to get answers. It begins with a familiar recording: “Welcome to the Employment Development Department’s Unemployment Insurance Online Help Center …”. .. “

After two minutes of explaining all of the services the phone line will provide, there is a pause, then: “We are currently receiving more calls than we can answer, and we cannot help you at this time. Please try again later. “

He hangs up. Only a beep on the other end.

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“As you can imagine, it’s extremely frustrating,” said Holcomb.

“Not once have I reached a living human being,” Leppert said, recounting his own frustrations.

Tierney had the same kind of experience.

“I kept calling because I thought there was something wrong with their system,” Tierney said as she struggled to find out why her EDD claim kept fading from the website. She did not receive any money.

“You have to be put in a queue and wait three months for a response,” Holcomb said. After 48 minutes of waiting one day, someone picked up the line. Her elation quickly evaporated when the person said they were unable to help, that someone would get back to them within 60 business days. It may not mean until September.

“It’s no use at all! What am I doing while I wait?” exclaimed Holcomb.

Not only that, the EDD warned that she would have to carry her phone everywhere and make sure to pick up or she would fall off the queue for reminders. The caller ID would show NO CALLER ID.

“You literally have to have your phone ‘on you’ whether you are in the bathroom or at the doctor’s office,” she said.

After losing their jobs, unable to know why they cannot get benefits, many go into financial despair.

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“I’m just getting nervous now because I’m watching every penny I spend,” said Tierney, who cares for her 100-year-old mother and chronically ill son. She gave him her last anti-seizure pill last week, with no way to buy more.

“And I saw in one of the local schools that they had, they were handing out groceries,” Tierney said. “I’ve never had to do this in my life. It’s a little embarrassing, but soon I won’t be able to go to the grocery store, so I could stand in line.”

And others are also in dire straits.

“My savings account is going to be depleted,” Holcomb said. “And I’m going to have to tap into my 401 (k), which I didn’t intend to do until I retired. The ripple effect is impacting the rest of my life.”
“I can’t pay my car bill, my rent, I’m just trying to make sure I don’t become homeless,” said Gutierrez, the licensed bartender. “I’m nervous, I’m scared.”

She took out a high interest loan of $ 3,000. She now owes $ 10,000 on the loan. And she let other bills expire, which has now ruined her credit rating.

“I remember the last dollar I spent of my money, you know how you put your money in a jar…” said Gutierrez. “I think I used it to buy toilet paper or the last kibble for my dog.”

State Senator Scott Wiener sharply criticized EDD’s handling of unemployment claims that were supposed to come in quickly.

“People find it difficult to pay their rent, to put food on the table for their families,” Wiener said. “They are going through a difficult time and they are entitled to these benefits and it is totally unacceptable that so many people have not received their benefits so long after applying for them.”

EDD admits it was not ready for the onslaught of claims, with a small staff, an old computer system and no warning of the coming crisis.

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It is now a patchwork of fixes.

“We have hired or at least extended conditional offers to over 4,300 people to join us and help as ESDs,” said Loree Levy, spokesperson for EDD.

Yet unemployed workers say newly hired workers are not trained or allowed to fix problems.

“They’ve hired all these people who can’t fix the problem, can’t answer the phone,” Leppert said.

“I finally succeeded and the woman said ‘I can’t help you, I will transfer you’, then the woman I was transferred to said I don’t know why you transferred her to me. , I know less than she does, ”Tierney said, laughing and shaking his head.

EDD reports having processed 8.2 million requests since March 14. About 4.2 million workers received benefits in the past four weeks – a number described as a “sliding total.”

UNEMPLOYMENT IN CA: Woman receives EDD letters denying her benefits same day

The EDD does not have figures on the number of rejected claims or the number of unemployed residents still awaiting benefits.

“At this point, I don’t know if I’m confused,” Holcomb said. “I know I am unemployed and I know it is directly caused by the coronavirus, but I am still not receiving the promised benefits.”

“That’s why I called you,” Leppert said, referring to 7 On Your Side – a plea echoed by Gutierrez.

“I just feel helpless,” Gutierrez said. “I thought maybe I could get some answers with Michael Finney or 7 on Your Side.”

And we find answers on each of these cases. We’ll take a closer look at what’s wrong with ESD – including some good news on what may work for those who still don’t have benefits.

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