California's embattled unemployment agency will not accept new unemployment claims for the next two weeks, accepting a recommendation from a governor-appointed Strike Team dispatched less than two months ago, its director announced late Saturday night.
The Newsom administration Saturday released a report with recommendations on improving California's unemployment agency, from adopting a commercially available identity verification tool to taking a two-week "reset" period before accepting applications from first-time applicants.
Meanwhile, Employment Development Department head Sharon Hilliard wrote that it will take until the end of January to get through the current backlog. She said the agency "is proactively looking at ways to reduce that timeline. Alternatively, if no changes were made, the EDD would still be working through the current backlog well into July 2021.”
Key findings: The report underscores just how outdated the agency's systems and processes are; one recommendation is to allow people to upload documents from their computers or phones when further documentation or clarification is required, rather than by regular mail.
Other findings and recommendations include:
Context: Gov. Gavin Newsom in late July announced he had created a strike team led by Government Operations Agency Secretary Yolanda Richardson and Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka. Their task was to "reimagine" the department's aging IT systems and "transform the unemployment insurance customer experience for the digital age."
The team also included about a dozen representatives from the California Government Operations Agency, the California Department of Technology and the California Office of Digital Innovation.
According to a release from Government Operations Agency, the strike team "observed teams at work at EDD offices in Sacramento and Rancho Cordova, extracted and analyzed data from EDD’s many IT systems, reviewed training materials and claimant communications, studied call center data, and interviewed hundreds of people for their feedback and suggestions including legislative members and staff."
What's next: Hilliard wrote in her response that she agreed with the four biggest recommendations, including the "reset."
"New claimants should not see a delay in benefit payments," she wrote, "and in fact many of them will actually get their payments faster as they avoid the older time-intensive ID Verification process."