Coronavirus unemployment: California jobless claims top 4 million, funds are running dry

Unemployment claims in California have jumped past the 4 million mark in seven weeks, a grim coronavirus-linked surge that has left the state government fund set up to finance the payment of jobless benefits “very close” to depletion, Gov. Gavin Newsom disclosed Monday.

The state’s Employment Development Department since March 15 has processed about 4.1 million claims for unemployment insurance, according to an estimate from the governor.

Yet at the same time, unemployed workers continue to complain that the EDD has failed to pay them any jobless benefits for weeks on end, that the EDD call center is broken, and that the labor agency’s computer system for handling jobless claims is saddled with glitches and unresponsive pages.

“I know it’s not happening fast enough,” Gov. Newsom said at a regular coronavirus news briefing, referring to the EDD’s faltering payment efforts. “I know it’s not happening at the level that people deserve and demand.”

Since mid-March, Gov. Newsom said, California has paid out $7.8 billion in jobless benefits through regular unemployment insurance and a special new pandemic unemployment assistance benefit geared toward small business owners, self-employed people, independent contractors and gig workers.

The fast-rising sea of payments that California is making to jobless workers also means the state government now totters on the brink of exhausting a state fund that was set up to finance unemployment insurance benefits, a prospect that the governor acknowledged during the briefing Monday.

“We’re getting close” to depleting the unemployment insurance fund, Newsom said. “We are getting very close to that point.”

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Author: George Avalos

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