SACRAMENTO, Calif — Four months.
That’s how long it’s been since Patricia Hampton of Palmdale, Calif., was last paid her unemployment benefits by California’s Employment Development Department [EDD]. And it could be another four months before she gets any money.
Hampton is in the middle of her second appeal with the EDD. She won the first one after the department told her she was not eligible for PEUC. She’s now waiting on a second appeal after the EDD said it couldn’t verify her identity.
“At first I was told we have, like, a month to hear an appeal. And then it got exponentially longer,” Hampton said. “Then it was 12 weeks. Twelve weeks, essentially 12 weeks, before I even get an appointment for you to hear my appeal. And last Friday, I was told 16 weeks, and it might be three weeks after that to get benefits restarted.”
Patricia has not been paid since Oct. 12, 2020, and is now worried about losing the place she has called home for over 25 years.
“I can't pay my rent this month. That's the first one. And it scares the hell out of me. You know, I don't like thinking of not having a place to live,” Hampton said.
The rise in unemployment claims, denials of benefits, and trouble with identity verification have all contributed to a growing wait time for people trying to appeal. The ABC10 Dollars and Sense team reached out to the EDD to figure out just how long people are waiting.
In a written response, the EDD told ABC10 it is taking “approximately 4-6 weeks” for it to review appeals cases for potential redetermination and avoid further appeals. The department said before the pandemic that process could take up to two weeks, but “due to the pandemic, remote work, and the high volume of claims,” that process is now taking two-to-three times longer.
"EDD is working as quickly as possible to file all oldest backlogged appeals and are in the process of exploring ways to automate certain aspects of our appeals workload so that staff can process these items while working from home," a representative for the EDD said.
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But that is just the wait on EDD’s end. After it reviews the appeal, it is sent to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board [CUIAB]. The EDD told us, “for the month of December 2020, once the appeal and evidence arrived at the CUIAB, appellants waited on average 39 days for an UI appeal decision.”
According to data on the CUIAB website, the appeals board closed 22,566 cases in December alone, an increase of more than 50% from the previous year, but the cases keep coming. The EDD said CUIAB has hired additional staff and Administrative Law Judges to address the surge and are working to hire even more.
The number of appeals could increase in the coming month as the EDD sends notices to claimants who haven’t verified their identity, after the mass suspension of accounts at the end of last year. The EDD believes the majority of the remaining accounts are likely fraudulent, but said there are tens of thousands of people who at least started the identification process but were unable to complete it.
The good news for people going through the appeal process is that the majority of people do win their cases.
“The general overturn rate is over 50% in favor of the claimant,” Daniela Urban, the executive director of the Center for Workers’ Rights, said. “And in cases that involve notice of determinations, finding people ineligible for benefits based on identity verification and they didn’t send your documents on time, according to EDD those are currently being overturned at a 92% rate.”
The EDD said once it receives an eligibility decision from the appeals board it can usually resume payments for people within a week, but until then, all people like Hampton can do is wait and hope they find a way to make the money stretch.
“It's kind of odd and awesome how much power this particular state entity has,” Hampton said of EDD. “They play it the way they see it. And they're going to do it their way.”
How to appeal with EDD
The way the appeals process works with EDD is that once you get a denial letter you have 30 days to appeal. The appeal must be in writing. You can find the official form on EDD's website or click here.
From there, your case goes to the board and someone from the field office sends you a notice of hearing. The notice will let you know the time and location of your hearing. You should receive it at least 10 days in advance of the hearing.
After the hearing, the judge will issue a decision. If you agree, you are done with the appeals process. If you don’t agree, you have 30 days to file an appeal with the field office.
After your second level appeal, a CUIAB board will review the judge’s decision and issue its own decision. If you disagree with the board, you have six months to appeal to your county Superior Court by filing a Petition for Writ of Mandate.
If you’re needing help to navigate through the appeals process, the Center for Workers’ Rights may be able to help you.