What went wrong at EDD? An investigation of its managerial meltdown

In theory, we humans practice politics as a pathway to governance – providing an array of laws, regulations and services to protect and otherwise enhance the lives of the governed.

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In practice, politics often – too often – become all-consuming exercises that bear only the faintest relationship to governance. Case in point: the U.S. Congress.

An aspect of that disconnect is the eagerness of those in office to build their images by constantly offering up proposals for new laws, services and programs while ignoring whether earlier laws, services and programs that officialdom birthed are performing as promised.

Often they are not, but even when informed about the shortcomings of design and/or implementation, officials tend to minimize or brush aside the criticism, fearing that acknowledgement would be a sign of weakness. Management and oversight just don’t have the political sex appeal of some shiny new notion that promises boundless benefits.

Examples of the syndrome abound, particularly in a state as large and diverse as California.

The state’s bullet train project is certainly one. Billions of dollars have been consumed and various structures have been built but the project has become a zombie, something that’s neither alive nor dead.

Oroville Dam is another. It was poorly designed and shoddily constructed in the 1960s and those who managed it knew of its deficiencies, particularly spillways that couldn’t handle Feather River flows from extraordinary storms.

But the interest groups that provided financial support for the dam in return for water were evidently not willing to spend the money necessary to make it safe.

Officialdom didn’t make it a priority, even when safety issues were raised in 2005 during the dam’s relicensing. In 2017, it came extremely close to a collapse that could have killed thousands of people.

There are many others but the poster child for governmental dysfunction has to be the Employment Development Department, which imploded during the COVID-19 pandemic as millions of Californians lost their jobs and needed unemployment insurance benefits.

EDD managed to simultaneously deny countless unemployed workers of the life-sustaining benefits to which they were entitled and parcel out countless billions of dollars in benefits to clever fraudsters.

A preview of EDD’s dysfunctional tendencies was felt during the Great Recession a decade earlier and the state’s watchdogs, the state auditor’s office and the Legislature’s budget analyst, issued timely warnings of potential disaster. But three governors and hundreds of legislators couldn’t be bothered to fix them and the result was cruel chaos.

In the aftermath of the near-catastrophe at the Oroville Dam, an exhaustive and damning analysis of what went wrong was commissioned. EDD deserves similar scrutiny.

After a year of painstaking research and interviews, CalMatters investigative reporter Lauren Hepler has written a four-part series that delves into what happened and why. She also catalogs the pain that EDD’s managerial collapse imposed on people who needed unemployment insurance benefits when the state shut down their jobs.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Comments

  1. Another JOKE of how State officials ignored this one at the taxpayers expense! Investigators??? hired by whom – another State official. Who is kidding WHOM??

  2. The biggest issue is this was a known problem of fraud. This has been an issue for years. The question is who will pay with their job?? No One. Typical government problem. The people responsible will probably get promoted or moved. Not fired. Same with the DMV computer upgrade issue. Millions upon millions spent, but no new operating system.

  3. I worked for EDD during Covid. I never met my supervisors or co-workers as we all worked from home. We all used different computer programs to do the same work–which never made sense. EDD workers use about 20 different programs, all of which are unable to talk to each other. The identity portion of the work–which was my job–was a mess. There were no samples of identity documents that we could use as reference materials when doing identity verification. We used whatever we could find on Google as specimens. FYI many of the the documents on the Internet are fakes or redacted samples. It was a common occurrence that Administrative Law Judges–people that worked for EDD–would order us to pay benefits to people with fraudulent Social Security Numbers and fake documents. Also, no one at the ALJ level made any attempts to verify whether documents submitted to them were genuine. EDD benefits were awarded on the basis of how good the Photoshop job was and not on whether the information on the document was real.

  4. Without consequences our entire government is free to screw up and waste our tax dollars forever. Until there is legislation that requires the removal of incompetence, criminal behavior and laziness we are stuck with what we have. What we do have is two groups of wealthy self serving power mongers fighting over trillion dollar legislations that NEVER accomplish their goals.
    And we vote these idiots back in office just because we recognize their name. The joke is on us.

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