State officials apologize for delays in processing unemployment benefits but many jobless Californians are falling behind on bills because of the malfunction in a computer system upgrade.

By Ricardo Lopez and Shan Li
September 23, 2013, 9:14 p.m.

About 80,000 jobless Californians have been cut off from unemployment benefits because of a computer glitch that could take weeks to resolve.

The Employment Development Department upgraded its 30-year-old system over Labor Day weekend with the aim of streamlining benefits processing. But the new system malfunctioned, forcing state workers to approve payments manually. That has created a massive backlog snaring 15% of claims filed since Sept. 1.

State officials say they’re working around the clock, but can’t say when they’ll catch up. The EDD has apologized on social media and is notifying affected Californians by mail.

But that’s little consolation to those whose benefits have been delayed. Many are falling behind on rent, car payments, and other bills and fault the EDD for its lack of action.

“They say they’re very sorry, but sorry doesn’t pay all the late fees we’re being charged due to their negligence,” said Tanya Cain, 43, who was laid off from a construction firm in late July. “A landlord doesn’t understand why you can’t pay the rent. They just understand you’re not paying it.”

Cain is owed about $1,500 in back payments. She has borrowed money to stay afloat but is down to her last $50. An automatic car insurance payment is about to hit her bank account, which would leave her overdrawn.

The computer snafu is the latest problem to plague the EDD, which has been forced to reduce services in recent months because of federal budget cuts. The agency no longer answers its unemployment hotline in the afternoons, and its regional jobs centers have lost some funding.

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