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Elk Grove Citizen

Out-of-Work Californians Urge Governor to Expedite Unemployment Benefits

Oct 15, 2020 12:00AM ● By By Nghia Nguyen, Office of Senator Jim Nielsen

SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - Standing in front of California's Employment Development Department (EDD) headquarters, seven residents of Northern California urged Governor Newsom to be more hands-on with helping those in need. Like millions of Californians, these residents lost their jobs after the Governor triggered a shutdown of businesses and ordered a shelter-in-place for all Californians.

"The experiences of out-of-work Californians and EDD's lack of action are shameful," said Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama). "The Governor and his Administration must do better to serve the people who elected him. Californians deserve better."

Waiting for unemployment benefits has been a shared frustrating, infuriating and devastating experience.

Phone calls are cut off after hours of waiting on hold. Mails and emails gone unanswered. Endless requests for legal documents that are not always related to the applicant's claims, has resulted in a nerve-racking game of waiting.

With the support Senator Jim Nielsen, Sacramento area residents spoke up for the 1.6 million Californians who are still waiting for their benefits.

"Action must be taken now to help those who are waiting for their benefits," said La Toya Horne of Sacramento. "I don't want anyone else to deal with the humiliation and bureaucratic obstacles I had to endure. I lost my home. No one should have to lose their home while waiting for a benefit they have earned and deserved."

Ms. Horne owned a thriving salon in an upscale part of town. She applied for unemployment in March when salons were forced to close. Months later, a stranger contacted Ms. Horne through social media to inform her that mail from EDD arrived at his house. She had lived at that address 10 years ago. When she amended her application and updated her identification, EDD told her she needed a judge to resolve the issue. They later reversed their decision.

Resolved in her passion to help others, Ms. Megan Williams drove nearly 100 miles to urge the Newsom Administration to act swiftly to get benefits to applicants.

"It is very disheartening to see the lack of urgency. I feel bad for the people who are not as lucky to have others to lean on financially, or who have landlords that are not as understanding as mine. The stress of having to call phone companies, credit cards companies, etc. to work out payment plans or shifting debt from one credit card to another, just to maintain on time payments, or keep things turned on, is unnecessary," Ms. Williams stated.     

EDD just emerged from a two weeks closure that left an estimated 100,000 people unable to apply for benefits. The hiatus was supposed to "reset" its operations and implement a new system. However, Senator Nielsen's office was informed Tuesday that the backlog to review claims went from eight weeks to 11 weeks. 

Understanding the financial and mental toll of waiting for EDD's sloth-like movements, Mr. Rick Walters of Yuba City joined the call to ask the Governor to immediately take action to help those who have lost their jobs due to the government-imposed lock-down.

"Government is supposed to work for us when we need help. We are law-abiding taxpayers. This experience was beyond stressful. As Governor, you need to act now to protect our citizens of this state," Mr. Walters appealed.

Like the 1.6 million residents still waiting for their benefits, Ms. April Carlton of Citrus Heights has been able to meet most of her financial obligations thanks to her close-knit family.

As an office manager and bookkeeper at a small business, Ms. Carlton's hours were reduced and she was later furloughed. EDD denied her claim based on a name change in 2018. Ms. Carlton provided EDD with judgment orders for the name change, immigration papers and proof of residence. Despite providing all legal documents, Ms. Carlton is still waiting for her backdated benefits.

"Thank God for the support of my family. Without them, I would not have been able to handle this financially straining and emotionally infuriating process," said Ms. Carlton.

Sherri Bailey of Rancho Cordova, along with her 82-year-old mother, joined the group to remind EDD officials of their commitment during the Great Recession to the public and lawmakers.

"They are not keeping the promise they made in 2008. They owe it to Californians to tell us what they did do to serve the public. Clearly, their system is still broken."

Elected to the State Senate in January 2013, Senator Nielsen represents the Fourth Senate District, which includes the counties of Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Placer, Sacramento, Sutter, Tehama and Yuba. To contact Senator Jim Nielsen, please call him at 916-651-4004, or via email at [email protected]. Follow him @CASenatorJim.