Computer glitch keeps benefits from unemployed

  • Martha Paige at her home in Petaluma, Calif., on September 17, 2013. Mrs. Paige, who was laid off from Sutter VNA Hospice, has not received an unemployment check since August 3 because of a glitch in the Employment Development Department system. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

Martha Paige can't be sure the computer glitch that halted unemployment benefits for tens of thousands of people in California is the reason why she hasn't received a payment in more than a month.

The Petaluma widow said she's been unable to get a response from Employment Development Department officials, despite numerous calls to their offices.

But she's feeling the pinch just the same. At 69 years old, Paige has been unable to get a job since she was laid off in May from Sutter VNA and Hospice. And the $840 a month benefit she got from the state was a necessary supplement to her modest Social Security check.

"Fortunately, it's just me and my two dogs and a cat, so I can survive on a can of soup or something," said Paige, whose husband of 38 years, Conrad Paige, died last year. "But what about other people who don't have what I have? It must be really hard for them."

State unemployment officials said Tuesday they were trying to solve the problem but couldn't say exactly when payments would resume for everyone.

The EDD is still working out the bugs in a new computer system installed Labor Day weekend that mistakenly stopped payments to a portion of the 800,000 people statewide who collect jobless benefits.

The upgrade to the 30-year-old system inadvertently "red flagged" some recipients, canceling payments to debit cards or bank accounts, said Patti Roberts, an agency spokeswoman.

EDD staffers are scrambling to restore benefits, going into the system and inputting accounts by hand, she said. Once the corrections are made, payments should return to normal soon, she said.

About 15,000 of the 50,000 claims for benefits that were more than 10 days old were processed Monday night, Roberts said.

"It's a one-time deal," Roberts said. "We absolutely are concerned about it. Unemployment benefits are a lifeline to most people."

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