Calls for action as EDD continues to struggle to meet unemployment benefits demand

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FRESNO, California (KSEE) — The latest figures from the EDD, or Employment Development Department, show that on Thursday more than $55 billion in unemployment benefits have been given to Californians – but many are still waiting to see a cent of that.

While Gov. Gavin Newsom has created a task force to address the EDD’s issues, the backlog and roadblocks on unemployment claims have some lawmakers demanding an audit on the agency.

Meanwhile, other entities are doing their part to address the unemployment issue alongside the EDD.

It took Mary Barnett two tries. She first filed for unemployment in March and got rejected. Someone from EDD gave her a call to help and she got an approval letter in June.

It’s now almost August and she still hasn’t seen any of her unemployment benefits. She tried getting hold of the EDD again but, like many others, did not get through.

“My savings is almost gone, so I haven’t been able to pay my rent at work. It’s been rough,” she said.

Stories like Barnett’s are why Fresno-area Assemblymember Jim Patterson wants an audit on the EDD. Gov. Newsom’s new EDD task force aims to create a plan in 45 days, but Patterson said faster response is needed.

During a press conference Wednesday, Patterson said several recent EDD hires have contacted his office claiming “gross mismanagement” in the agency.

“The recent re-closing of businesses in the state and the inevitable increase in people who are going to be thrown on the unemployment rolls again — now more than ever before we have to have an audit here,” Patterson said.

Fresno-based BitWise Industries continues to try and help unemployed Californians as well. In April, it launched OnwardCA to help people find new jobs and connect them with other resources such as child care.

The website, which has a national counterpart called OnwardUS, has helped 500,000 Californians so far.

It has made adjustments to the mobile versions of these websites to address issues users have cited in the past few months.

“We deployed a new mobile version that is really clean, a lot more usable,” BitWise co-founder Jake Soberal said. “We hope that opens up more access to the tool to a broader number of folks in this really challenging moment.”

Meanwhile, Barnett hopes the help she was told she would get arrives in her mailbox soon.

“I felt grateful when I found out we could get it, but not receiving it is hard, [especially] when you’re anticipating something coming,” she said.

U.S. Labor Department data shows last week, nearly 250,000 Californians filed for unemployment for the first time. The week before, nearly 290,000 did.

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