New Upgrades for the Unemployment Insurance (UI) System
January 22, 2014, 4 p.m.
Updated: Information on initial processing backlog and delayed payments and other general updates.
- UI Program Legal Requirements
- Initial Processing Backlog and Delayed Payments
- Recommendations for Customers
- Special Note for UI Claimants
- What Else Can UI Customers Do?
The EDD is upgrading its 30-year-old unemployment payment processing system. California has by far the largest UI program in the nation and we are busy transitioning to the new system in order to bring greater conveniences to our customers and greater efficiencies to our operations.
The internal part of that system launched over Labor Day weekend in 2013 and the external part called UI Online will launch in the coming months.
- Since launch, the EDD has paid more than $3.2 billion in total unemployment benefits and processed more than 8.8 million certifications for continued benefits through our new payment processing system. Our system is currently processing approximately 70 – 80% of all certifications on the same day they are received. The remaining 20 – 30% are forwarded to staff for typical eligibility review to ensure the claimant has met all requirements for ongoing benefits including being able, available and looking for work.
- It’s important to note that there have always been 20 – 30% of all certifications that get forwarded for manual review by staff because of UI program eligibility requirements. In some cases, there was an error made by the claimant on the form, and in others there is some kind of eligibility issue that staff must research with the claimant. Only when issues are cleared and it’s validated that the claimant meets eligibility requirements can such certifications for benefits be paid. This is a normal part of the UI program which is based on a complex set of laws and regulations.
- It’s expected that once the public portion of our new payment processing system called UI Online is available to customers to use and clarify information right away, the number of certifications that must be forwarded for manual review will decrease. That will help EDD expedite processing and paying of benefits for our customers.
UI Program Legal Requirements
The UI program is an eligibility-based system where regular unemployment benefits are paid by employers. In order to receive benefits, unemployed Californians must file an initial application for benefits and then meet continuing eligibility requirements.
(1) The initial application for benefits: Once becoming fully or partially unemployed, individuals must file an Unemployment Insurance (UI) application with the EDD if they want to receive unemployment benefits. Upon receiving the application, the EDD will send the individual their first bi-weekly form to complete and submit. The EDD will review the application and that first certification form to determine if the individual meets all of the eligibility requirements.
- If the individual is found eligible, he or she can expect to receive the first benefit payment generally within three weeks of submitting the claim information. That payment will likely only contain one week’s worth of benefits because all claims must serve a one-week unpaid waiting period. The waiting period can only be served if all eligibility requirements are met for that week.
- If there is an eligibility issue identified on the claim, the individual will instead receive a notice from the EDD that indicates further information is needed from the individual and/or the former employer to clear the eligibility issue. A phone interview is scheduled and individuals notified by mail.
Throughout the history of the program:
- On average, approximately 20–30% of all applications for benefits must be reviewed by staff because of a potential eligibility issue involving how the individual left his or her job, or whether or not he or she earned enough in wages while they were working to qualify for benefits.
- Of those, a full 50–60% of the claimants do not meet the eligibility requirements to qualify for benefits designed to help replace lost wages. In those cases, they will receive disqualification notices advising them of the eligibility decision.
(2) The continued claim certification for ongoing benefits: If a customer is found eligible to establish a claim, the individual must submit a continued claim certification every two weeks to verify that he/she remains eligible for each week to receive continued benefits. These certifications for benefits are processed at the EDD through a separate system from the initial applications for benefits.
Our new payment processing system helps us by automatically reviewing these ongoing certifications for eligibility and forwarding eligible ones for payment without the need for staff intervention. Those certifications that are straight-forward and absent of errors can be processed and paid within a matter of days. Those that contain errors or more complex eligibility issues such as not being able to work due to an injury or illness will be forwarded to staff for review and potential clarification from the claimant. It is not unusual at all for someone to be eligible for benefits in one bi-weekly period and not the next.
Initial Processing Backlog and Delayed Payments
As of the end of December 2013, there were approximately 747,000 people certifying for ongoing benefits after establishing a UI claim in California. This figure does include an annual spike in demand for benefits around the end of a year, as well as individuals collecting on a federal extension claim once their regular unemployment benefits ran out. The total number of current claimants will decline over the next several weeks as we move further away from the recent expiration of the federal extensions. The vast majority of all of our UI customers have continued to receive their benefits without interruption.
However, a subset of our customers, an estimated 148,000, experienced delayed payments due to a backlog of certifications in early September. This was due to the temporary impacts of converting old claim data into the new system. This issue has since been resolved for all of our current claimants.
The EDD sincerely apologizes to those customers who did suffer the impact of our temporary backlog. We continue to commit all available resources to completing the transition to our new system as quickly as possible. As with any new major infrastructure project, we are closely monitoring our system. We have a process in place to identify and resolve any issues that may come up so we can minimize any impacts on our customers while we investigate and put more permanent adjustments in place.
The EDD has paid all individuals who could be paid dating back to our system launch through either regular processing or through the expedited processing method applied in late September to help us eliminate the certification backlog. The EDD reminds our customers that it’s possible some claimants who received an expedited payment in late September may eventually face an overpayment if the delayed eligibility review later reveals an issue.
- Example: Someone supplementing reduced wages with some reduced level of unemployment benefits. Since we were unable to make the needed calculation at the time of the expedited processing, it’s possible a claimant could have received more benefits than they would’ve been eligible for, based on the reduced benefit legal requirement. If an issue does arise, the EDD will contact the claimant to get any follow up information that would be required.
While the major issues associated with the initial launch of the new system have been resolved, there are more complex eligibility issues associated with the UI program that could delay payment of benefits, such as:
- The individual has yet to have their initial claim established due to more complex issues involving severance pay, missing wage information, an employer protest, a military claim which can take up to 60 days to finalize wage information, an identity alert issue, or other more complex eligibility issues.
Recommendations for Customers
As part of our constant evaluation to improve service through this transition, we have some helpful information and suggestions for our UI customers.
(1) Certify Online or By Phone: We strongly encourage our customers to certify for their ongoing benefits online through EDD’s Web-CertSM or by phone through Tele-CertSM. Currently, some of our customers send in paper forms every two weeks of their claims. This is a more time-consuming method for processing and paying your benefits. You can help expedite the processing of your certifications by submitting such forms electronically online or through the phone.
(2) Submit a Question through Ask EDD: The EDD is currently understaffed due to significant federal underfunding. To help us better track e-mails from customers and respond more quickly, we have condensed our UI e-mail categories to 16 major topics. If you are currently having issues or have questions about your claim, you can contact the EDD by submitting an inquiry through Ask EDD. The topics within certain sub-categories below are the current topics available under Unemployment Insurance in Ask EDD.
- Sending Inquiries Online: Please choose one of the topics from the drop-down menu that best applies to your question or issue. Please only submit ONE inquiry. This will help us eliminate the workload associated with duplicate questions and allow our staff to respond to your question more quickly.
- Provide Necessary Information: In addition to submitting only ONE inquiry, we ask that you also include the following information with your question through Ask EDD:
- Full Name.
- Phone number to reach you from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
- Social Security Number.
- Detailed information regarding your claim.
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Special Note for UI Claimants
Once we launch the new UI Online with new conveniences for our customers in the coming months, any certifications received will be directly entered into the new payment processing system instead of relying on interconnections with our pre-existing intake channels like Web-CertSM and Tele-CertSM. In addition:
- The new UI Online will include an e-mail feature for directly communicating with us on specifics of your claim if you have questions. This will greatly enhance our ability to receive your questions and have your claim info readily available to help us respond.
- The new UI Online will include automated features that will not allow any certification to be submitted before claimants can correct any errors first, like answering yes and no to the same questions or not supplying details on any wages you earned in that time period. This will prevent the time-consuming process of a certification being forwarded over to staff to set up an interview with the claimant, collect any further information needed, and then proceed to processing certifications.
We ask for the help of our customers in using self-service tools whenever possible, so our limited staff can be directed to assist customers with more complex needs.
What Else Can UI Customers Do?
We are working to process all certifications received from our customers. If a customer does have a claim related question, we strongly encourage them to avoid the frustration of trying to get through to a representative by phone and instead contact the department through Ask EDD and choose from the revised menu of topics as explained above.
- For those awaiting payment, we recommend you sign up for alerts from Bank of America EDD Debit CardSM website once a payment is posted to your debit card. You can also call the UI self-service automated line for daily updates on payments issued: 1-866-333-4606.
- We are unfortunately understaffed due to federal funding reductions at a time when demand remains more than twice what it was before the recent recession. We simply cannot continue to support all channels of service, and customers do have alternatives to the phone. Our staff focus instead is on processing claims and payments and getting through this transition to our new system. The more we can get our customers using the self-service tools we have made available, the more our limited staff can be available to take care of claims with more complex needs.
- The EDD website also features information on some additional resources available in California communities that may help you, including basic necessities and food assistance.
- The EDD also strongly encourages our customers to monitor this Web page over the next few months as we progress in new upgrades to the UI payment processing system. We will continually post updates to this page and to our EDD Facebook and EDD Twitter pages in an effort to keep our customers informed and prepared. Also, with UI Online coming soon, you can stay up to date with new developments and features by subscribing to receive e-mail notices.
- Apply for UI or Reopen a UI Claim
- Certify for UI Benefits
- Access UI Payment Information
- Forms and Publications
- More Help for the Unemployed
Top Links This Month
- EDD Web-CertSM
- Federal UI Extensions
- Ways to File
- UI Telephone Numbers
- Where is My Payment
- Managing Your UI Benefits Information