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Opinion: California Mistreated Working Families During the COVID Pandemic

Photo courtesy of EDD.

Democratic politicians often express their admiration and support for what they call “working-class families,” while arguing that rival Republicans lack such empathy.

Despite this political stance, the Democratic governor of California, with the tacit support of a Democrat-dominated legislature, has imposed unnecessary misery on those he claims to value, such as a new report by the legislature budget analyst confirms.

When COVID-19 struck California two years ago, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency and ordered the closure of large sections of the state’s economy to combat its spread. Almost immediately, more than two million workers were laid off as their employers complied with the orders, and most applied for unemployment insurance benefits to house and feed themselves and their families.

Whether the closure and subsequent redundancies were justified in terms of their impact on fighting the pandemic will be endlessly debated. Regardless, it happened and after losing their job by executive order, the suddenly ineffective claims of employees for benefits deserved quick and accurate processing by Newsom’s Employment Development Department.

Instead, EDD’s pandemic operations quickly turned into a bureaucratic Chernobyl with huge and prolonged accumulations of claims, unanswered handling of plaintiffs’ questions, uncontrolled fraud and, as the new report states, erroneous anti-fraud practices that prevented payments to those who had legal claims.

The State Audit Office, particularly the Office of the Auditor General, has consistently documented EDD deficiencies, and the latest report, which focuses on about $ 20 billion in fraudulent payments and EDD measures to combat it, comes from the Office of the Legislature. Analyst.

What emerges is a story of a service that repeatedly fails to act when necessary and then overreacts as it tries to correct its past mistakes.

Embarrassed by the revelations of fraud, which mainly concerned specific federal unemployment benefits, EDD executives have outpaced anti-fraud policies, denying benefits to many legal and qualified plaintiffs, the LAO report said.

At one point, he says, “EDD and (and an outside contractor) identified 1.1 million claims as potentially fraudulent. EDD discontinued payments for these claims. Employees were not informed in advance. To reopen their accounts, employees had to verify their identity using ID.me otherwise their accounts would be permanently closed. “Eventually, more than half of the claims (600,000) identified as fraudulent were confirmed to be legal.”

Thus, the “working families” that Democrats claim to treasure have been subjected to double and triple abuse.

Newsom’s proposed budget for 2022-23 contains funds for six outsourced contracts to prevent future fraud, in addition to 13 other fraudulent contracts, and the LAO report asks “are any additional anti-fraud efforts currently justified”? .

“Moving forward at this time with new, additional levels of anti-fraud protection would also take the sector further out of balance, again giving priority to eliminating fraud at the expense of direct and immediate payments,” the report said.

One of the most annoying things about EDD’s incredibly poor performance over the last two years is that its political overseers have received many warnings. During the previous recession that began in 2007, the department had great difficulty in handling an increase in unemployment insurance claims due to outdated tools and procedures.

However, as soon as the recession ended, the organization returned to its normal ministerial role, and no one – especially Newsom’s predecessor, Jerry Brown – took the precautionary step to improve EDD capabilities before the next recession hit.

So when it hit 2020 with a Newsom decree, the department was flooded and the shortcomings revealed in the previous recession were magnified. It is another reminder of the government’s endemic inability to look ahead and plan for the future.

Dan Walters is his columnist CalMattersa journalism project of public interest that is committed to explaining how the State Capitol of California works and why it matters.

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Opinion: California Mistreated Working Families During the COVID Pandemic Source link Opinion: California Mistreated Working Families During the COVID Pandemic

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