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Coronavirus Unemployment: Inside EDD's $11.1 Million Call Center Contract As Calls Go Unanswered

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — After months of promises and millions of dollars spent on the EDD call center, people are still struggling to get through to someone with answers at the EDD.

Over the past month, the EDD signed at least two no-bid contracts worth more than $16 million with Deloitte Consulting. The bulk of that money was supposed to go toward fixing the call center, but as of Thursday, several viewers tell CBS13 they still can't get through.

After April Demello was put on hold and then disconnected three times on Thursday, we asked her to call again and record the call. The video she sent shows her exasperation as a recording says "press 0 to continue waiting." She presses 0 and is disconnected again.

Every day we hear from people like April who are struggling to get a hold of someone at the EDD. Some say they've called more than 600 times a day.

Many who do get through say they can't get the answers or help they need even after speaking with 6 or 7 people and being escalated to an EDD supervisor.

ALSO READ: EDD Date Errors Keeping Self-Employed Filers From Their Back-Pay

Last month, the EDD signed a two-month, $11.1 million no-bid contract with Deloitte Consulting to handle the increased pandemic call volume and help EDD process claims. But now halfway through the contract, many say little has changed.

The bulk of the money is allocated for call center agents with hourly rates of $55. However, other salaries range from $155 for analysts to more than $300 an hour for managers.  More than $600,000 is allocated to chatbot deployment.

Despite the lack of marked improvement, earlier this month, the state awarded Deloitte a second no-bid contract, for an additional $5 million contract to "provide IT Consulting staff to support COVID-19 Federal CARES Act Bill."

"No-bid contracts make us all very uneasy," said Assemblyman David Chiu. He notes the contract was awarded to Deloitte outside of the normal bidding process.

While no-bid contracts aren't unusual during emergency situations, Chiu said "the idea that we would choose a contractor who has previously mismanaged a similar project doesn't strike many of us as a very smart choice."

ALSO SEE: Continuing Coverage - CBS13 Investigates Coronavirus Unemployment 

Chiu points to Deloitte's long history of cost overruns and problematic IT projects at the EDD. Most notably, a 2013 system upgrade resulted in "disastrous consequences" according to assembly members. They also cited a spike in call center problems and a drop in answered calls following an EDD/Deloitte software glitch that impacted more than 300,000 claimants.

Then, like now, lawmakers and reporters were flooded with desperate calls for help from those who were impacted.

Chiu said his staff is also struggling to get answers from EDD for the people reaching out to his office who are desperate for help.

"I think the system is completely broken," Chiu said. "My staff are working around the clock responding to countless calls from our constituents because the system's not working."

CBS13 did not hear back from EDD or Deloitte before our deadline Thursday, but Deloitte has said these contracts build off the company's previous work with EDD and noted that they've been working with the agency for 10 years.

Follow our continuing coverage as CBS13 works to get answers to your Coronavirus Unemployment Questions: 

CBS13 Investigates: Coronavirus Unemployment

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