Now that Congress has passed and the President has signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or “CARES” act millions of newly unemployed are in for a surprise.
Wait Wait Wait.
It will be weeks before the unemployed expecting money to subsist on arrives.
The processing of claims by State workers is a cumbersome process due to the numbers of new applicants, lack of funding for State agencies and an antiquated computer system.
It’s good news for the unemployed that the CARES act will distribute an additional $600 weekly to the unemployed. California has no plan to increase its current maximum benefit of $450. That figure has been in place for decades.
Sacramento Bee 3.25.2020
If California wants to increase unemployment insurance benefits to help workers cope with the economic fallout from the new coronavirus, the higher payments could be delayed up to a year because the state employment department isn’t prepared for the job.
A new report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found the information technology systems at California’s Employment Development Department, which adminsters unemployment benefits, are limited in what they can currently do.
“Due to the limitations of (the Employment Development Department’s) current information technology systems, changing (unemployment insurance) benefit levels—for instance, by increasing the maximum weekly benefit amount or setting a minimum weekly benefit floor—could take as long as a year to implement,” the analysts wrote.
“For this reason,” the analysts said, “in our view, the legislature probably has limited options to respond to the COVID-19 crisis by adjusting (unemployment) benefit levels.”
Department spokeswoman Loree Levy said the agency has been working to update its current systems for some time.
“There are a number of different solutions the EDD is developing and implementing now to deal with the unprecedented claim demand and issue benefit payments,” she said.
“That includes streamlining the processing of claims wherever possible, staff working overtime seven days a week, redirecting hundreds of staff from throughout the department and elsewhere in the state with unemployment processing experience (including recent retirees), and of course hiring when we can,” Levy explained. “Although it does take several months to get new staff trained on the complexity of the (unemployment) rules and regulations. “
The current maximum weekly state benefit is $450. The federal economic stimulus package due for a vote in Congress this week would provide extra unemployment benefits. State officials have not proposed higher California-funded benefits.
It’s unclear how the state’s technology limits could affect implementation of a change funded by Washington. The state’s benefit program is primarily financed by a tax on employers.
The legislative analysts said Monday that while the department usually issues about 80 percent of first benefit payments within 21 days of receiving a worker’s application, it’s anticipated that the first benefits will now “take much longer.”
Levy said that “it always takes about three weeks to process a claim once received and issue benefit payments when someone is found eligible. For now, we are timely with payments due and are working on a number of strategies to maintain that as much as possible.
“But of course, at the same time the EDD is also trying to transition our workforce to teleworking as much as possible to abide by health guidelines and protect our staff. That’s certainly creates some challenges,” she said.
The analyst’s report offers several options to get benefits to unemployed workers more quickly. Among them: Stop non-essential work related to unemployment insurance benefit administration, and temporarily stop debt collection from employers who are not paying tax.