On Wednesday, State Assembly Republican Whip Devon Mathis, whose district includes Porterville, led several Assembly Republicans in submitting a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom requesting additional resources to address the continued Employment Development Department unemployment claims backlog.

As part of their request, the Republicans are urging Newsom to form a strike team similar to the one that was formed in 2013 to help deal with Veterans Administration backlogs.

 “I am extremely disappointed in the ongoing issues with our EDD, and its inability to provide timely aid to our struggling families and communities,” said Mathis. “The Governor’s recent announcement of additional Unemployment Insurance liaisons for legislative offices is greatly appreciated. 

However, this aid would have best served our communities months ago. This is another example of the Governor failing to provide the necessary resources, in a timely fashion, to help Californians struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

On Tuesday, the EDD Legislative Affairs Branch notified the State Legislature tit would be expanding the current liaison program to provide a full-time Unemployment Insurance liaison to each legislative office beginning Monday, June 14. Offices will have access to their new liaison throughout the workday, five days a week. The goal of the effort is to help legislative offices resolve their older and incoming unemployment insurance cases.

In a letter Mathis and other Republicans sent to Newsom they wrote: “One potential solution for the continued UI backlog can be drawn from the state's implementation of its Veterans Strike Force Teams.”

The letter noted in 2013 the state budget $3 million to hire 36 staff members to form a strike team to address extremely long VA backlogs. It was taking close to two years for veterans to claim and receive compensation and benefits.

These strike teams were proven extremely effective at reducing backlogs, helping our veterans gain eligibility to hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits,” the letter stated. Mathis also wrote in the letter: “I am recommending an immediate implementation of this model within EDD to provide rapid UI claim assistance to both draw down the backlogs and prevent increase in the future.”

As a result of the Veterans Strike Team's success, then-Governor Jerry Brown made those strike team positions permanent in 2015.

We appreciate the recent announcement of expanding the current liaison program to provide full-time Unemployment Insurance liaisons for each legislative office,” the letter states. “These liaisons have been instrumental in providing our constituents with an avenue to address concerns or errors that may arise during the UI process. 

However, this aid comes too late for too many of our constituents. This pandemic, and the subsequent failures of your EDD, has been affecting our state for more than a year. Further, this expansion does little in the way of helping the general population who, for whatever reason, chose not to contact our offices with regard to their UI claim issues.”

In conclusion the letter states:As we emerge from the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that the Legislature and the Executive branches must collaborate, in a bipartisan manner, to address many of the shortcomings that have plagued our state’s key agencies.  These problems cannot be left unaddressed until the next time our state is thrust into a pandemic. We urge you to work with our caucus in addressing these issues.”

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