GovOps Secretary Yolanda Richardson testified at an oversight hearing by Assembly Budget Subcommittee 4 on State Administration on Monday detailing the progress of the Employment Development Department (EDD) strike team, which was formed in July by Gov. Newsom to address the department’s backlog of unprocessed unemployment insurance claims.
Richardson, who co-chairs the strike team with Code for America founder Jennifer Pahlka, said they have spent three weeks meeting, interviewing, and shadowing EDD managers and teams to understand their processes and day-to-day operations during the COVID-19. Their immediate goals are to provide the governor with “immediate, actionable steps that can be taken to make the most significant impact on speeding up the process of claims,” said Richardson who told legislators Gov. Newsom is committed to making major changes at the department.
“It isn’t as simple as just getting new software loaded or more people answering the phones,” she continued. “But we’re looking at issues that can be solved─including policy optical obstacles that make managing the program difficult and inefficient.”
The strike team has already made recommendations for changes such as electronic document uploading and sorting claims based on the date they were submitted and will make additional recommendations following a two-week testing period. A 45-day report is due in September.
EDD Director Sharon Hilliard testified for the majority of the 97-minute hearing where she provided details on efforts to improve customer service and a data reporting system that the Strike Team is helping to develop. Hilliard was also asked for a response to a letter from sixty-one legislators to Gov. Newsom calling for the creating of the Strike Team and more transparency in the department.
Legislators grilled the director on legacy technology issues and concern the department’s vendor Deloitte, a firm that has been criticized in recent months over a no-bid contract to support the unemployment system. Watch the entire 97-minute hearing here: https://youtu.be/Zw63fI_0u6A.
“I think what’s curious about this entire situation is that Deloitte, for the better part of a decade has had a relationship with your agency, where it has continued to overcharge under-deliver and frankly, embed itself and further long-term dependence with what has been broken it system for the better part of 10 years,” said Assemblymember David Chiu. “We’ve had this experience, and yet it has continued. And I would just note that one aspect of our procurement process gives credit to those vendors who have had long term relationships with government, which I think has made it harder for us to extricate ourselves from this relationship.”
Watch Richardson’s comments below: