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California's short term disability program disappoints

Life has been made more difficult for people in California trying to get information about disability or unemployment benefits thanks to budget cuts. Officials with the Employment Development Department recently acknowledged that people are having difficulties reaching anyone at the EDD offices, and they hope to have the problem addressed by this summer.

California's EDD assists workers with unemployment benefits and disability benefits. California State Disability Insurance (SDI) is a temporary partial wage replacement insurance plan for workers in the state and is different from Social Security Disability benefits. SDI provides eligible injured workers with short-term benefits.

Bakersfield Eyewitness News recently investigated the issue after receiving calls from many viewers who said they could not get through to anyone at the EDD. An EDD spokeswoman said the department is facing issues -- including an increased case load and lack of funds -- that have affected the ability to process unemployment and disability claims in a timely manner.

The spokeswoman said EDD received more funding during the height of the recession, which allowed them to hire more staff members, but that extra funding has since gone away. The EDD staff members they have left are also required to take state-mandated furlough days off, adding to the backlog of work.

Unfortunately, many viewers told Eyewitness News that the situation is becoming dire. One viewer said she is facing eviction and doesn't have enough money to put food on the table because she hasn't been receiving unemployment benefits from the state. Another viewer said he is unable to get the medication he needs because he depends on unemployment benefits.

The EDD spokeswoman said things should get better this summer after system improvements have been implemented. But many disabled workers in the state may want to consider applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in the meantime. SSDI provides monthly case payments to disabled workers who are unable to work for a year or longer.

Source: Bakersfield Eyewitness News, "California EDD: 'It's really a problem, and people are suffering'," Carol Ferguson, Feb. 26, 2013

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