Solution to improve UI access would have the adverse effect

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, March 18, 2011

A newly introduced bill, AB 391 (Richard Pan, D- Sacramento), would require the Employment Development Department (EDD) to provide in-person unemployment benefit assistance in at least one comprehensive one-stop career center.

CMTA opposes it because it will significantly shift costs and resources used to administer the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Fund and probably disrupt the delivery of benefits to the unemployed.

AB 391 attempts to address the increased demand for assistance due to a high unemployment rate.  However, shifting resources from the current centralized call center to in-person services does not guarantee more efficiency or better access.  We believe that current resources should be prioritized to continue upgrading the outdated computer systems and hiring more employees for the call centers if necessary.   Due to these extraordinary times it is essential to continue allowing EDD as much flexibility as possible when administrating the UI system and in determining the most efficient distribution of resources.

Making the move from a centralized phone system to an in-person system brings with it several logistical challenges and could be costly.  Although the bill states that EDD should provide assistance in the one stop career centers, it does not specify the amount of workers per center that will be needed.   In the past EDD has testified that an effective in person assistance will require at a minimum three to five individuals per center.  For security reasons, and in order to allow for sufficient breaks, there should be a minimum of three individuals per center, if not more.  Many of these centers may not have the appropriate equipment, the private space to assist UI applicants, or the infrastructure to have EDD staff on site.  The bill further requires that department customer service personnel be fully trained; therefore, EDD would have to take their most experienced call center staff and transfer them to one-stop career centers further diminishing the quantity and quality of services provided by already overburdened call centers.

We believe that the UI system should be evaluated in its totality rather than considering a piecemeal approach such as AB 391. We should also consider designing an effective UI delivery system which integrates itself with the current local Workforce Investment Boards and their efforts to train displaced workers.

AB 391 has been referred to the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee for its first hearing.

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