After irresponsible mismanagement of the unemployment system, California’s unemployment agency has found itself in a backlog. Having overpaid millions of people and failing to enforce eligibility rules to process claims faster, 4.1 million claimants risk having to repay the unemployment benefits they received during the pandemic. However, it is unfair and predatory of the agency to demand repayment from those who have suffered from the pandemic. Instead of placing the burden on those who are in need, the state of California and its unemployment agency should just learn from their mistakes so that something like this never happens again. As a matter of fact, this error reveals the many weaknesses of bureaucratic agencies and reinforces the need for important systems like unemployment to be updated and made more streamlined.
Although California may appear to be one of the richest places in the world on the surface, there are many flaws behind the scenes that have become more prolific with the pandemic. This clerical error is not the fault of the claimants and instead is a result of the lack of planning and underfunding of government agencies. It should come as no surprise that programs that are supposed to benefit poor people are always underfunded and disorganized. California was not ready for the pandemic, and the unemployment agency was not ready to take care of so many people all at once. Furthermore, California was already in debt before the virus hit. Consequently, they are simply trying to pick up the pieces and fix what has already been broken before the pandemic. In the process, however, they are harming those who need help the most instead of looking back at the policy decisions that got them into debt in the first place.
It is completely unfair for the unemployment agency to request that people repay their benefits, especially with the uncertainty of the pandemic. This clerical error happened because of the agency’s oversight, and therefore, many people were made unaware of whether they were eligible or not in the first place. As a result, this made way for a lot of fraudulent claimants that received benefits they may not have been eligible to get. Nevertheless, considering the pandemic is still ongoing, the agency needs to simply let these people keep their money. The pandemic has been raging on for a year, and with no real federal aid, the least California can do is let these people keep their benefits. Most likely, people already spent the money anyway, whether it was on rent, food or other essentials. It is too redundant to ask for the money back, and doing so would take many years to remedy every case. So, there’s really no point to start fixing anything when it will take too long to finish. Besides, there are larger issues afoot, and it is hardly the fault of the people since the agency and government were so foolish.
California residents have suffered enough at the hands of the pandemic and should not be the ones fixing this issue. Moreover, California has not been doing much to help businesses or people during the pandemic, so people should just be allowed to keep what little benefits they have received. What would be more beneficial in the long run is if the unemployment agency learns from this mistake in order to avoid it in the future. At the very bare minimum, they should re-evaluate their requirements for who gets unemployment to make sure that the right people are receiving it. They also need to implement more safeguards and restrictions so that, in the case of another unforeseen crisis, they do not release benefits to anyone who signs up in order to get through cases quickly. That way, fraudulent claimants will be less likely to take benefits away from those who are in need. This whole experience has shown that the system is way too bureaucratic and that there is far too much red tape. Therefore, the unemployment agency should be revised to run more efficiently.
To make it more streamlined, the agency should start by hiring more people. Not only would this help the job market, but it would also change how the system is run as a whole. Additionally, if the people hired have more experience building apps and websites, then the process of filing for unemployment would be more modern and user-friendly. The agency should strive to make its website more accessible to everyone. In other words, they must make the language a lot easier to comprehend and make sure all the guidelines are clearly stated in order to avoid fraud.
Instead of saying yes to everyone in a panic, the unemployment agency needs to prepare for these types of situations. This pandemic has shown that they are not equipped to handle statewide crises of this magnitude. Thus, they need to go about things in a more sophisticated way and be more strict with who they consider eligible for unemployment. Most importantly, the state of California needs to invest more resources into an important agency like this one so that they are more prepared to take care of people struggling to make ends meet.
There is no way to sugarcoat the fact that the unemployment agency of California messed up immensely. However, this should be taken as a lesson so that this will never happen again. Improvements need to be made so that the unemployment agency is better prepared for another crisis in the future. In the meantime, those who have received benefits during the pandemic should be allowed to keep the money given to them, and instead, the agency needs to implement more regulations to avoid large mistakes.