To the editor: Many Californians share my frustration and anger — especially Barry Levine, who was featured prominently in your article about coronavirus-related unemployment benefits.
Since March, I have heard countless stories of people who are outraged about the slow, unresponsive service from the state Employment Development Department. I, like Levine, make 150 calls to the department until I finally get someone.
I filed twice, the first time for unemployment benefits, for which I was deemed ineligible, and the second time for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which guarantees up to $600 a week. I am still waiting for a response on that one. I am an independent contractor paralegal who was furloughed from my job back in March. That is when I first filed; little did I know that I was supposed to file for PUA.
It is now mid-July, and I am struggling to pay for food and bills.
So far, the agency reported it has hired hundreds of new employees to help process an unprecedented volume of claims, aid customers in call centers and review documents. More people will be hired, but many Californians are still waiting for payments and answers.
Like Levine, I am in limbo right now, and I do not know how I am supposed to proceed. It is the not knowing where I am in the process that is so maddening.
Brian J. Goldenfeld, Oak Park
To the editor: The EDD's gross dysfunction is nothing new.
I was laid off in 2013 and spent the next eight months in unemployment claim hell. Forms I submitted would get lost; replacement forms for back weeks would arrive after the deadline to re-submit them, causing forfeits of my weekly claim; automated forms got crossed in the mail; and somebody in Texas earned wages using my Social Security number by mistake.
The time I spent trying to contact EDD to resolve issues turned into its own part-time job and full-time, brain-dissolving stress.
The last EDD worker I got through to looked through my file for a few minutes, sighed, and said that it was a confusing mess and she wouldn't know where even to begin. It was pretty clear that she thought it would be a waste of effort to try.
"But don't worry," she said, trying to say the only helpful thing she could think of. "Jesus walks with you."
Michelle Anderson, Pasadena
To the editor: Can't someone put a brain on this nightmare?
What about an alphabet lottery, with the selected letter being the first letter of last names to be serviced on a given day? Announce this to everyone online and through whatever other means available that only people whose last names begin with that day's selected letter will be serviced.
And what about automatic appointment setting with a call-back time window, as the Department of Motor Vehicles has done?
Norm Simon, Encinitas