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Governor orders backlogged unemployment checks sent

Wednesday, September 25, 2013
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The long wait is finally over for thousands of out-of-work Californians. Governor Jerry Brown has moved to end a backlog of unemployment payments with one order.

California has a terrible record when it comes to massive technology projects. But this mess affects lives: at one point, 80,000 people.

Alicia Riley, a single mother of four, has not received her weekly unemployment check in a month. That's more than $1,200 her family has had to live without.

"I would like those people who are in charge of that to come and explain to my children tonight why I can't feed them tonight," said Riley.

She's one of the tens of thousands of Californians whose benefits were interrupted when the state began a massive computer upgrade to the 30-year-old system on Labor Day weekend.

"They thought they had it in shape. They were wrong," said California Labor Secretary Marty Morgenstern. "Whether it was the consultants, whether it was the people who worked on it, it's not the first time there's been a computer glitch."

The contractor for the state Employment Development Department (EDD) computer upgrade is Deloitte, which is being paid $62 million for this project. It also changed over the unemployment benefits system in Massachusetts in July and experienced a lot of problems there.

EDD says California's upgrade is different from Massachusetts, which needed a complete overhaul. So it's not a fair comparison.

"We're just addressing the continuing payment portion of the system here in California. So it's a custom-built system," said EDD spokesperson Loree Levy.

"I find that appalling that they would not work on a Plan B, C and D when these problems arose," said Alicia Riley.

"We've gone through, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H and I. We're on J," said Levy.

Despite working overtime and weekends, EDD could eliminate the backlog that has built up.

So the Brown Administration finally ordered EDD to pay out benefits; eligibility will be determined later.

All checks are expected to be sent out by Tuesday. Alicia Riley says the state is acting too late.

"As of today, I cannot feed my children. We are out of food. That's how desperate it is," said Riley.

Deloitte said data sometimes cannot be converted easily to a new system. Deloitte said it only affects a small percentage of people, and that there are far more successes.

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Tags:
jerry brown, unemployment, technology, california news, nannette miranda
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