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California's Unemployment Backlog Shrinks To 1.3 Million


On Wednesday, California's Employment Development Department said that it has cleared about 250,000 of over 1.6 million unprocessed unemployment claims.

EDD Executive Director Sharon Hilliard said the agency won’t be able to completely clear its backlog until at least January 2021. The main cause of the backlog has been the need to verify the identity of claimants. An EDD report in September noted that the state was receiving over 20,000 claims a day that needed to be verified, but only had capacity to review about 2,400.

Last month, the Employment Development Department stopped taking new applications for two weeks so it could update its I.D. verification software. The new software is expected to automatically verify up to 91% of incoming cases. But based on test runs, Hilliard said it’s too soon to know if the new software is functional enough to meet expectations.

Assemblyman David Chiu, who has been critical of Hilliard and the EDD since July, said that there was no guarantee the backlog would be cleared by the end of the year. 

This story was produced by David Exumé and voiced by David Boyer.

David Exumé (he/him/his) is a 2020-2021 Audio Academy Fellow. His reporting interests include music history, immigration, community organizing, and urban planning. He's previously worked at KCRW in Santa Monica and WPRB in Princeton.
David Boyer is KALW's Director of Programming and former Managing Editor of KALW News. He is also the producer/host of the Murrow Award winning podcast THE INTERSECTION, which looks at our changing cities, one street corner at a time.