By Anthony York
February 7, 2014, 2:27 p.m.

Gov. Jerry Brown is taking steps to boost the state’s unemployment insurance program, which has been paralyzed by backlogs and funding shortages that have kept thousands of Californians from receiving jobless benefits.

In a letter to Employment Development Department Director Sharon Hilliard, the head of Brown’s labor agency cited “unacceptable levels of payment delays and unanswered phone calls” for those seeking unemployment benefits from the state.

“It’s clear that to improve service we must retain skilled staff and hire additional workers,” wrote Labor Secretary David Lanier.

Lanier’s letter directs EDD to hire 280 additional workers to help process unemployment claims and retain another 250 workers whose jobs were up for review. The letter also calls for continued overtime pay for EDD workers, and the ability to replace 1,505 employees that have recently left the department or are expected to leave in the coming months.

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