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EDD Tips: Unemployed workers share how they got through the backed-up system

Unemployed workers share their strategies for getting through the Employment Development Department.

“I can’t get through the EDD!”

“Where are my unemployment benefits?”

ABC10 has heard from hundreds of viewers, desperate to receive help and frustrated they are not able to get through California's Employment Development Department (EDD) call center.

It’s been five months since Californians were ordered to stay home to contain the spread of COVID-19, forcing many businesses to close down or cut jobs. Since then, the EDD has received a historic number of claims. 

The EDD reports, since March, it has processed more than 10.2 million claims for benefits between the regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) program, extensions, and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. But many are still waiting.

Here are some tips from people who have had success with getting answers and checks from the EDD.

TIP 1: WRITE LETTERS

It took Sherri Mackay, a business owner in Tracy, two and a half months to receive benefits. When she applied for unemployment in March, she didn’t know she would have to wait weeks later to apply for PUA. 

Mackay received a letter with an award of zero dollars in benefits. She sent a total of four appeal letters to the EDD along with 30 years of 1099 IRS forms. When the application for PUA opened in April, she reapplied for benefits.

“I felt the reason why it went through for me after waiting a month and a half was because I kept pressing and pressing them, which you shouldn't have to do,” Mackay said.

During the time Mackay was writing letters to EDD, the PUA application opened at the end of April and she had to refile. Mackay felt her letters were part of the reason she was able to receive PUA benefits by mid-May.

“Forget getting on the phone,” Mackay said. “I tried numerous times to call and you know, the one time I did get through on one line at eight in the morning, they hung up.”

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TIP 2: TRY THE "ASK EDD" TOOL

Michelle Schurer, an independent contractor in Pasadena, told ABC10 she noticed there are two different voice recordings when calling the EDD call center. 

“One will take you to a dead-end, and you have no choice to make any options and the other male voice allows you to actually get into the menu,” Schurer said. 

A woman in Auburn told our sister station, ABC7, the answering message with the delay is the one for which you’ll want to stay on hold. If you hear a recorded voice immediately, it will likely lead to a dead-end. 

Schurer was also persistent with the Ask EDD tool. Based on the category you select, applicants are allowed to submit questions. Some categories will provide information only, and other options such as “UIO- I Received an Error Message (Ask EDD),” will allow you to fill out a contact form. Due to the high number of claims being processed, the unemployment agency is only allowing customers to submit one question per day.

“I basically sent a message several times and just didn't get the answer that I wanted,” Schurer said. “So I'm like, I'm just going to send it again until someone gives me the right answer. It actually worked.”

After Schurer successfully received her benefits, she had to help her son with his unemployment process.

“It seems like from me going through this process since April, it seems like it's getting a little bit better,” Schurer said.

TIP 3: TRY A DIFFERENT NUMBER

Felicia Cervantes Martinez tried contacting a different number, 1-855-327-7058, provided to her by her Birth & Beyond Family Resource Center. After three weeks of trying to get a hold of EDD, Cervantes Martinez called the number and decided to select the Spanish option because she is bilingual. She was able to speak to a representative within 10 minutes. 

TIP 4: BE PATIENT

Mike Heath, a salesman in Stockton, applied for unemployment in March after he was furloughed two weeks a month from his job. 

“It was a nightmare,” Heath said. 

Heath spent about two months waiting to receive unemployment benefits and received his first payment in May. After receiving his first payment, he didn’t get another check until the end of July. Rather than continuing to call the EDD, Heath left a couple of messages and sent an email to the unemployment agency.

“I didn't call and it seemed to be the easiest thing,” Heath said. “I just sent them an email and they replied eventually. And then they said, ‘Yeah, you're gonna get a payment.’ About a month later it showed up.”

Heath found out from spending hours in front of the computer ― you have to be precise. 

“You got to be patient and you got to fill everything out the way they want it,” Heath said. “If you do that, eventually you'll get money ― It just takes a while. Like they [EDD] said, they're way behind and they are."

MORE TIPS

Viewers have also said they have achieved success by remaining persistent. Some have also been able to receive help by following unemployment groups on Facebook and contacting their lawmaker. 

Sacramento Assemblymember Kevin McCarty told ABC10 viewers, “I encourage my constituents to call me if you have problems, or call your lawmaker if you’re not my constituent because we’re here to serve you and we’re trying to make sure we get through this together.”

If you do not know the lawmaker who represents your area, ABC10 has compiled a list of California Assemblymembers.

Many viewers texted in about making mistakes on unemployment applications or certification forms, causing delays for those trying to receive benefits.

Have any tips that worked for you? Share them with us at (916) 321-3310.

Read more Dollars and Sense stories on ABC10

WATCH MORE: EDD explains the top mistakes it sees people making when applying for unemployment benefits in California.