Valley residents still waiting on umeployment, EDD has one million outstanding claims

Olivia Sandusky

For three and a half months, Jon Barrist’s unemployment payment status has been pending.

“I filed for unemployment as an independent contractor when I was able to, and immediately got accepted. They moved me up to the full amount of 450 a week,” said Barrist, a Palm Springs resident.

Barrist received payments for two weeks, but that stopped in mid-May when he was informed there was a minor mistake on one of his forms.

He quickly corrected the mistake, but the payments never continued.

“I tried every day to contact them. The number, nobody would answer, and they kept telling me we’ve reached our limit please try again later,” said Barrist.

In a State Assembly meeting on Monday, the Employment Development Department director says 60 percent of calls to the EDD go unanswered due to volume.

“That’s why I want to continue to add resources, I would like to go way beyond where we were pre-pandemic,” said EDD Director Sharon Hilliard.

The agency is working through a backlog of more than one million claims, and the director said the large volume is due to low staff and their decades old system.

“We’ve been struggling, admittedly, with the reporting because of our old, antiquated systems. We’ve already had some good conversation and a fresh look at how to report,” said Hilliard.

With marginal help from the EDD, Valley residents like Barrist have turned to local assembly members for help.

Assembly Member Chad Mayes says his office is a great resource.

“EDD did give us a liaison within their office to work on, and that liaison has been able to clear some of the backlog,” said Assembly Member Chad Mayes, 42nd district. “If you’ve not been able to reach out to EDD, then give our office a call and let’s see if we can do what we can do to help you.”

But for residents like Barrist who have thousands of dollars pending, they can’t afford to wait.

“I don’t want to get to the point of being in a foreclosure on my home. And I’m doing everything I can to work, but we live in an economy that’s just unprecedented,” said Barrist.

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