Calif. unemployment agency not answering 60% of calls

California

FILE – In this July 20, 2010 file photo, people arrive to seek employment opportunities at a JobTrain office in Menlo Park, Calif. On Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, Employment Development Department Director Sharon Hilliard told California lawmakers in Sacramento, California, the state has more than 1 million pending claims for unemployment benefits. Hilliard called the situation “shameful,” but said the department is working through the backlog. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s unemployment agency is not answering 60% of the calls it receives for help as the state struggles to work through a backlog of more than 1 million pending claims.

Employment Development Director Sharon Hilliard told a panel of frustrated state lawmakers on Monday that California is on pace to have 3,700 people working in its call center by January. That’s compared to the 350 it had working before the pandemic.

Hilliard said the state is receiving about 6.7 million calls a week.

The state has processed 10.6 million unemployment claims since March and paid more than $67 billion in benefits.  

State officials say the coronavirus pandemic continues to loom large over the local economy. The San Diego region’s unemployment rate was 12.3% in July, down slightly from the previous month, the Employment Development Department reported last week.

At the same time last year, the local unemployment rate was 3.6%.

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