Skip Repetitive Navigation Links

Employment Development Department

EDD's Poor Planning and Ineffective Management Left It Unprepared to Assist Californians Unemployed by COVID‑19 Shutdowns

Report Number: 2020-128/628.1

Figure 1
EDD's Online Claim Filing Process Involves Manual and Automated Filing

Figure 1 is a flow chart that describes the claim filing process after an individual submits an application for UI benefits on EDD'S online application system. An individual known as a claimant submits an application to claim UI benefits through EDD's website. Next, EDD's benefit information system attempts to automatically file the claim. If the claim files automatically, EDD sends the claimant an estimated benefit amount and a copy of the continued claim form they will need to sign and return to EDD to receive their first payment. If the claim cannot file automatically, EDD staff must manually review the claim to determine which issues need to be resolved to file the claim. Potential issues include mismatched information and potential concerns about the claimant's identity.

Go back to Figure 1

Figure 2
Californians Filed Claims for Unemployment Insurance Benefits at a Historic Rate and Number, Even Compared to the Great Recession

A chart displaying the number of initial claims received by EDD by month between September 2009 and October 2010 and September 2019 and October 2020. The graph displays two lines, with the one representing 2009 through 2010 appearing generally flat, with claims averaging around 300,000 per month. The second line shows about half as many monthly claims between September 2019 and February 2020, until claims skyrocket in March 2020, peaking at 2,355,000 initial UI claims received in April 2020. The graph shows that through October 2020, monthly claim totals remain more than twice as high as the average totals during the Great Recession in 2009-2010.

Go back to Figure 2

Figure 3
Most Issues that Prevented Automatic Claim Filing Related to Prior Employment or Identity Verification

A pie chart displaying the proportions of issues UI claims incur that prevent automatic filing by EDD's online system. Most of these issues, or 69 percent, related to problems with prior employment information, while 26 percent related to identity verification and 5 percent related to other problems. A footnote indicates that the data in the figure is from August 2020. We also compared these data to the months of March and June 2020 and found the percentages to be comparable.

Go back to Figure 3

Figure 4
EDD Significantly Changed its Operations to Issue Payments More Quick

A flow chart that displays the changes EDD made to its processes in 2020 to increase the rate of automatic claim filing. Beginning in March 2020 EDD used relaxed rules in an emergency claim processing tool to increase the number of claims that filed without staff intervention. In October 2020, EDD implemented, a new identity verification tool, to reduce the number of claims going to manual review by staff to verify claimant identities. After EDD made these changes to its processes, since November 2020 its automatic claim filing rate has increased to 90 percent. However, EDD's changes are not all sustainable because EDD altered some of its processes in order to automatically file more claims in response to federal law temporarily changing eligibility requirements for some claims, such as not requiring evidence of work history for some claim types in order to receive the minimum weekly benefit amount.

Go back to Figure 4

Figure 5
EDD Delayed Eligibility Decisions to Keep its Claim Backlog from Growing

A graphic describing the events at a high level around EDD's postponement of eligibility determinations in 2020. The graphic reminds us that economic shutdowns caused record numbers of unemployment claims. In order to pay claimants more quickly, EDD paid benefits without making most eligibility decisions. However, EDD will now have to retroactively review over 12.7 million eligibility issues it deferred, affecting 2.4 million claimants. EDD must determine which of these claimants may not have actually been eligible for all the benefits they received and now need to repay the money they received.

Go back to Figure 5

Figure 6
Some Claimants May Owe Repayment of Benefits Because EDD Did Not Collect Eligibility Certifications

A flow chart describing a possible scenario in which the fictional Jane may now owe EDD repayment of benefits due to a decision to pay claimants without collecting eligibility certifications for continued claims. In this scenario, Jane taught classes full-time at a fitness studio before the COVID-19 shutdowns. Jane filed a regular unemployment insurance claim in March 2020 and began receiving benefits. In April, EDD instructed Jane not to submit her continuing eligibility certifications. At the end of April, Jane began teaching classes online part-time. This income may make her ineligible for some of the benefits she is receiving from EDD. Jane reported the income to EDD, but it did not review her correspondence. In July, Jane learns she needs to submit retroactive certifications and does so immediately. EDD must validate her certifications and review her change in income. Afterward, EDD may determine that Jane was ineligible for part of her benefit amount. Even though Jane followed all of EDD's instructions and was suffering financially, EDD may now request her to repay money she does not have.

Go back to Figure 6

Figure 7
Hundreds of Thousands of Callers Did Not Reach EDD Agents When Calling During the Pandemic

A chart displaying the number of unique callers versus the number of calls that EDD answered weekly between January and October 2020. One line represents the number of weekly unique callers, and the chart shows that the volume of these callers began increasing dramatically in April, from fewer than 180,000 callers per week pre-pandemic to a peak of about 1,700,000 callers per week by May. At this point, callers had to call an average of 10 times to reach an EDD agent. While callers were calling EDD in the hundreds of thousands, the second line in the chart shows that EDD was able to answer fewer than 50,000 calls weekly through mid-April. At this point, EDD began adding call center staff because its capacity is limited by its staff, who can each answer about 200 calls per week. After adding more staff, EDD began to answer closer to 180,000 calls weekly, only increasing over 200,000 by October.

Go back to Figure 7

Figure 8
EDD Should Implement Best Practices to Improve Call Center Performance and Customer Service

A figure reviewing best practices EDD could implement to improve call center performance and customer service and their associated benefits. The first best practice is to collect and analyze data on why people call EDD, which will benefit the department by allowing it to adjust operations and training to better address claimant needs. The second best practice is to segment training into specific skills based on the most common reasons people call EDD, which will promote more targeted and efficient training and operations, allowing for a more agile response to staffing needs. The final best practice is to monitor and track the number of callers whose questions are resolved on their first call, which will help EDD to maximize the number of callers helped by the first agent with whom they speak and identify additional training needs.

Go back to Figure 8

Figure 9
EDD Was Not Prepared for the Economic Shutdown

A graphic describing EDD's operational issues and how its failure to adequately plan for a recession impacted its performance during the pandemic. EDD has been aware of key operational issues for nearly ten years since the Great Recession, including inefficient claim filing processes, a lack of readily available and qualified staff, and poor call center management. Despite these issues, EDD failed to develop a comprehensive recession plan. As a result, the economic shutdowns worsened EDD's already poor performance. The graphic shows that in early 2020, before the economic shutdowns, about two-thirds of online claims did not file automatically, EDD issued 25 percent of first payments later than 14 days, and it answered less than 10 percent of calls. Post-shutdown order, EDD issued almost 40 percent of payments later than 14 days and answered less than 1 percent of calls in early April.

Go back to Figure 9