Amid historic COVID-19 related unemployment highs and a day before a contentious Assembly hearing on California’s unemployment system, Gov. Newsom on Wednesday announced the creation of a new strike team to address the backlog of claims and ongoing information-technology related problems.
The California Department of Technology and Office of Digital Innovation will support the effort led by GovOps Secretary Yolanda Richardson and Jennifer Pahlka, former Code for America executive director who now heads U.S. Digital Response, a nonprofit organization helping government agencies respond to the COVID-19 crises.
“The strike team will identify steps to transform the unemployment insurance customer experience for the digital age. Within 45 days, the strike team will deliver a roadmap that outlines short-, mid- and long-term recommendations and solutions to transform the customer experience of applying for and receiving UI benefits,” said the announcement.
Wednesday’s announcement emphasized a new focus on the individuals impacted by the economic downtown. The state’s unemployment level is around 15 percent, with 7.6 million Californians filing claims, adding to $55 billion, according to media reports.
“While we have faced unprecedented challenges this year, unemployment insurance should be a human-centered system that supports people during hard times. From the first contact to final resolution and all communication in between, we are committed making the UI experience better for Californians,” said Julie A. Su, Secretary of the Labor and Workforce Development Agency in a press statement.
An Assembly Budget Subcommittee held a hearing on Thursday where lawmakers were critical of the department’s efforts, including recently signing a no-bid contract with Deloitte consulting.
Video of the 3.5-hour hearing is here: https://www.assembly.ca.gov/media/assembly-budget-subcommittee-4-state-administration-committee-20200730/video