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California unemployment agency still plagued by delays, audit finds

November 13, 2012 | 11:04 am

California’s Employment Development Department has not made sufficient changes recommended in 2011 to improve service for people without jobs, so many continue to have problems getting efficient help on their unemployment insurance claims, the state auditor said Tuesday.

"Our follow-up in this area found that millions of callers continue to have difficulty accessing the department’s new phone system and its agents," State Auditor Elaine Howle wrote in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown.

In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012, more than 17 million call attempts, or 24%, of all calls to a new phone system, did not get answered, and of the 29.7 million calls in which individuals asked the automated system to speak with an agent, 24.9 million, or 84%, were unsuccessful.The automated system hangs up on many callers who get through and punch a button to speak to an agent, the audit found.

Despite that problem, "the department has not developed any specific goals related to reducing" the problem, the auditor wrote, adding that the department should better monitor and manage call volume.

[Updated at 5:47 pm to include EDD response.]

``The EDD is implementing many of the recommendations made by the Bureau of State Audits'' and has  ``achieved improvements in timeliness performance,'' said department spokesman Kevin Callori. ``The improvements in performance also came during a period of unprecedented workloads with high unemployment rates and the various extensions to Unemployment Insurance benefits that occurred over the past four years.''

Howle said the state continued to fail to meet minimum standards set by the U.S. Department of Labor for promptly issuing initial unemployment payments and making decisions regarding claimants’ non-monetary eligibility.

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

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