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'It's Very Difficult'; Coronavirus Pandemic Strains California EDD With Nearly 1 Million Unemployment Claims

by Juliette Goodrich and Abigail Sterling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- The California Employment Development Department said Thursday it has now processed nearly one million claims since the beginning of March, and KPIX 5 is learning that a lot of people are still having problems getting through.

Since we first ran a report about problems with the EDD earlier this week, we've received dozens of posts and emails from more frustrated Bay Area residents who are among the 925,000 people who have filed claims since March. Many are having different problems that they can't resolve. So we reached out to EDD to try to help them out.

Unwind is one thing travel reporter Victoria Shepherd finds hard to do these days. She's self-employed and work has dried up. "It's hard, because I don't know where the money is going to come from," said Shepherd.

Under the new Federal Cares Act, the self employed are entitled to unemployment compensation. But for Shepherd it's been an obstacle course: She can't apply online, because she has worked outside of California in the past 18 months. Snail mail was her only option.

But on the form there's no box to check if you are self-employed. "It asks specifically for previous employer. Primarily it's just been me. And so I wasn't sure if I was doing it right, but I put that Victoria Shepherd was the employer. So I just have to keep my fingers crossed that the process will work," said Shepherd.


Jacqueline Svoboda has a different problem. She applied online and was denied because of unemployment benefits she collected in the past. "It put out a sign that said, 'You've exhausted your resources for this year,'" said Svoboda. "I have a seven- and nine-year-old. It's very difficult. We kind of have to call everybody and put things on hold."

Svoboda has been trying to get help over the phone, to no avail. Like everyone, else she's frustrated that EDD phone lines are only manned four hours a day.

Even between 8 a.m. and noon, it's impossible to get through. David Reber has dialed EDD non-stop, trying to fix a mistake he made on his claim form. "I had read an article on the internet that said that if you do have to file for unemployment, you don't need to look for work. So to be honest and be forthright on the form, I checked the box that said did I look for work? And I said 'no,'" said Reber. He thinks that's the reason his claim was denied.

We ran our three viewers questions by EDD and got some answers:

Turns out Shepherd filled her form out right: An EDD spokesperson told us "If you own your business or are self-employed, you should list yourself as your last employer."

Jacqueline should be eligible too. "Claimants who have exhausted their UI benefits may be eligible for a federal extension of 13 weeks."

As for Reber, the EDD spokesperson told us: "The claimant should not be penalized for answering "no" to the question of whether or not they are actively seeking work."

But Reber still wonders who is going to fix it. "It's a simple fix. And if I could just talk to somebody for five minutes, I'm sure that it would get resolved. It's frustrating because I have no income. I still have to pay the credit cards, I still have to pay the rent, I have to buy food," said Reber.

Svoboda received a call from EDD Thurday saying it was working on a special program for people like her that have exhausted their regular benefits. The program should be up and running by next Wednesday.

You can find more unemployment information on the California EDD website 'UI Online' section, which has FAQs about programs available.


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