SAN FRANCISCO -- As the coronavirus pandemic raged, throwing millions out of their jobs, Californians turned to the one agency that could save them from financial ruin: the Employment Development Department.
The federal government had just pumped $40 billion into the state coffers to ensure no one would go hungry or homeless. Instead, a clumsy, outdated bureaucracy left millions in the lurch, throwing barriers in the way of payments even as it opened the floodgates for scammers to collect as much as $31 billion of taxpayer money.
Millions struggling with no income tried to go up against an unresponsive bureaucracy - as they sank deep into despair.
Now, 18 months after the pandemic began, lives are forever changed, the impacts lingering to this day. We show the stories of a mother who had to send her children away, a family that lost EDD benefits as COVID-19 swept through their entire household and a single mother who resorted to living in a car with her little boy. Now legislators ask, "Why are we doing this to people?"
Californians are frustrated, angry, confused and living on the edge of financial ruin, or worse. The recent surge in pandemic-related unemployment claims is unprecedented, but why was the state so unprepared, and how did things get so wildly off track?
ABC7's sister station KGO-TV took a deeper look at the crisis in 7 On Your Side's special investigation "Broke: California's Unemployment Crisis."
The investigation spotlights the devastating impact, trace the failings back through decades of missed opportunities to overhaul the system, and search for the solutions millions of people desperately need.
Watch "Broke, California's Unemployment Crisis" on the ABC7 streaming app on your favorite streaming device now.