Calls overwhelm California’s disability benefits call centers

By Grace Gedye | CalMatters

Christina Cedillo has a sticky note on her computer, reminding her what buttons to press when she calls California’s employment department with questions about disability benefits.

But at this point, she doesn’t need it. After calling hundreds of times, she can recite the whole phone tree from memory.

Cedillo, who works as a bartender, gave birth to a girl in October 2021 and immediately filed for disability benefits, which cover pregnancy. By mid-December, though, the payments stopped.

She couldn’t find anything on the department’s website that explained why, so she started calling. The worker she reached said many payments had been delayed due to fraud, but that they should restart soon, Cedillo recalled.

When they didn’t, Cedillo estimates that she called the department between 300 to 500 times in late 2021 and early 2022. She would sit and redial, often while nursing, sometimes 40 times in one day.

She wasn’t alone. Less than half of unique phone numbers calling the Employment Development Department’s disability insurance branch call centers were answered on average between November 2021 and April 2022, according to department data. That’s down from about 80% between May and October of 2021.

Without wages coming in, Cedillo put more charges on her credit card.

“I had budgeted for this and I knew that I was going to not get very much from the state anyways,” said Cedillo. “And then to not even have that — and I was depending on that — was really, really frustrating.”

In February, Cedillo got a letter from the department asking her to fill out a form and send back documents to verify her identity. She sent the form and documents the next day, she said. Weeks went by. In April, she got another payment. She thinks she’s still owed $168, but, she said in a June interview, …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

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