Harder Slams EDD for Halting New Unemployment Claims for Weeks, Asks for Answers

September 23, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) today slammed the California Employment Development Department (EDD) for its sudden decision to stop processing new unemployment claims and 1.6 million applications stuck in backlog. In a letter to the department’s director, Sharon Hilliard, Harder criticized the agency’s repeated errors and requested information on planned remedies.

“The issues at EDD are out of control. This isn’t a new problem – it’s been a disaster for decades but with the pandemic and increased unemployment needs it’s time for the EDD to finally get their act together,” said Rep. Harder. “We need answers on what they’re going to do to fix this problem so regular people can get the support they need during the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression.”

Representative Harder has taken the agency to task before during the pandemic. In May, in response to reports of significant payment delays, Rep. Harder pushed for faster service and appropriate staffing. Last month, Rep. Harder sent another letter highlighting the same issue as the problems had still not been resolved.

The text of the letter is below and an original version is available here.


Dear Director Hilliard,

I write today to urge you to overturn the sudden moratorium on all new unemployment claims—now a staggering 1.6 million —at the Employment Development Department (EDD) as well as get answers on what your agency will do to address the various issues plaguing the EDD.

From delays in processing claims, unanswered calls to fraud, the Strike Team’s report revealed how broken the EDD is. What’s most disturbing is that your agency believes the answer to addressing these issues is to take two weeks off work and pause claims for that entire duration without warning. Delaying the report’s release and then attempting to bury it over the weekend, rather than having a transparent accounting of the challenges EDD is facing, will not be permitted. Further, forcing Californians to wait for assistance is simply unacceptable. Now is not the time to turn our backs on the most vulnerable people, many of which lost their jobs through no fault of their own. I urge you to reject this moratorium and take the necessary steps to ensure workers across California can rely on this assistance.

The reports of the other issues plaguing your agency must be addressed. Please answer the following:

  1. According to reports, your agency simply stops answering phone calls when you’ve reached capacity. What’s most alarming is that in some cases, it takes a person up to 6 weeks to receive a call back. What are you doing to remedy this issue and ensure callers are answered in a timely manner?
  2. Offices like mine are on the phones with constituents that are still waiting on their benefits—some since March. By your own standards, you claim you will be out of backlog by January 27, 2021. That’s more than four months away. What are you doing to provide support for workers who are relying on this assistance now? 

The speed at which aid is sent to Californians will dramatically affect the recovery of our economy. I urge you again to take steps to improve your agency’s broken system. I look forward to your prompt response.