Friday, August 27, 2021
Seven months after the state auditor recommended an overhaul of California’s unemployment benefits system, a bill to speed up action on the changes by the state Employment Development Department fizzled Thursday when it was sidelined by lawmakers in a partisan dispute.
The measure by state Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Red Bluff) had previously won unanimous approval by the Senate but was one of a handful of measures that were put on ice Thursday by a Democrat-controlled Assembly panel.
The decision of the Assembly Appropriations Committee to hold Nielsen’s bill was not explained during the hearing by its chairwoman, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), who later said on Twitter that other reform bills have been passed by the Assembly and are pending in the Senate.
“These were duplicative,” she wrote of the measures held by her panel.
EDD officials have said they are already enacting the changes recommended by State Auditor Elaine Howle in January, but the auditor’s office says only eight of the 26 recommendations have been fully implemented. Nielsen’s bill would have set a May 31 deadline for the EDD to implement the auditor’s recommendations aimed at reducing delays in paying benefits, prioritizing modernization of its technology, assessing its call center operations and improving its tracking of claimants’ problems.
“Governor Newsom and the Democrat-controlled Legislature don’t have the courage to take on powerful bureaucracies, like the EDD — clearly a failed agency,” Nielsen said in a statement. “It’s unconscionable. This shows a callous disregard for the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Californians who are unemployed because of the governor’s lockdown orders.”
The bill, SB 232, was shelved …
… The agency has been overwhelmed by an unprecedented 23.9 million claims for unemployment benefits since the COVID-19 pandemic triggered shutdowns in the state’s economy in March 2020. Jobless Californians have complained of months of delays in payments and computer glitches, and the state admits $11 billion was paid on fraudulent claims.
Click here to read the entire article in the Los Angeles Times.