SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The Employment Development Department (EDD) says it paid out $975 million in unemployment during the first month of the pandemic and that they're getting payments out to people within three weeks.
But, CBS13 is hearing from many who say that's just not happening.
The EDD has processed a record number of claims over the past month and paid out nearly a billion dollars. Still many are coming to us frustrated by payment timelines that aren't panning out.
Sal, a substitute teacher and father, is struggling to pay the family's bills on his wife's income alone.
Karen, who lives alone and has no supplemental income since she was furloughed last month, says she is desperate for her unemployment payments. "I have nothing without this money," Karen said.
Like many, they're frustrated that they can't get through to the EDD and have been waiting weeks for their first unemployment payment.
Adding insult to injury they keep hearing the Governor, and other state officials, insist the EDD is paying unemployment claims within a three-week time frame.
"If it's three weeks, then why haven't I been paid yet?" Sal asked.
"It's pie in the sky," Karen added.
Karen applied for unemployment the day after the governor's statewide stay-at-home order on March 19. Sal filed four days before.
They were both approved for benefits within about a week, but now Karen is going on four weeks without a payment and Sal is going on five. They were among the first to apply.
They say they think the EDD, and the Governor, are setting unrealistic expectations - both for people desperately waiting for benefits and for others who have not lost their jobs.
"My neighbor or somebody will say, 'oh, it sounds like they're expediting everything,' but it hasn't happened," Sal said.
The governor said the EDD is now processing about a million unemployment payments a week, but the EDD can't say how many of those claims are going to the 2.7 million newly unemployed because of the pandemic.
"If they don't know how many people that they've paid that have been out of work due to COVID, then it's really irrelevant," Sal said.
We asked the EDD: "Of the 2.7 million claims processed since mid-March, how may were approved, how many were denied and how many people got a payment?
"We do not track how many claims have been approved or denied," the EDD said in a statement.
The EDD does track how much they pay out in total each month, but of the $975 million they say they paid out during the first month of the pandemic, they can't say how much went to new pandemic filers and how much went to people who were already unemployed.
EDD data shows that the agency had been consistently paying around $450 million a month for existing and recurring claims to people who were unemployed prior to the pandemic.
CBS13 has heard from some people who did get their payments within three weeks of applying. Many of those who received the fastest payments already had an EDD debit card from previous unemployment, disability or paid family leave claims with the EDD.
"Don't tell me don't worry. If it's a delay and there is an issue I need to know. I need to know what my plan is," Karen said.
Instead of best-case scenarios, without data to back it up, many, like Sal and Karen, want a more realistic timeline to help them plan for the worst.
One in seven working Californians have now filed for unemployment.
While the EDD doesn't keep track of how many are approved and denied, CBS13 crunched the available numbers.
We found fewer than half of those who applied during the first month of the pandemic are likely to have received money from the state.
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