Persistent tech problems

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California is struggling to provide residents with two items central to surviving the pandemic — the vaccine and unemployment benefits.

California as of Wednesday had administered 38% of its 4.2 million doses of vaccine, ranking 45th nationwide in the number of doses administered per capita. And on Thursday, the beleaguered Employment Development Department revealed that nearly 943,000 claims remain backlogged — the highest total in months, and an increase of more than 130,000 from last week.

The shortcomings appear to be due in part to technical problems. For example, nearly two weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a goal of vaccinating 1 million Californians in 10 days, the state is unable to determine if he met the goal due to a series of coding errors and data collection problems. (Officials estimate it likely took 12 days.) And EDD, after suspending 1.4 million unemployment claims in an attempt to root out fraud, is now extending the time claimants have to verify their identity from 10 to 30 days due to a severely overloaded system that has left some Californians spending more than three days trying to get through.

In an attempt to streamline California’s chaotic vaccine rollout, Newsom today will unveil a pilot program to help counties, cities and other entities schedule appointments, as first reported in this newsletter. But challenges remain. Even as additional mass vaccination sites open, providers say they are running out of doses. And 10 lawmakers alleged in a Thursday letter that the state has not shared how it determines the number of doses each county, hospital and mass vaccination site should receive.

  • The lawmakers (9 Republicans and 1 Democrat): “A lack of communication and transparency from the administration has resulted in mass confusion by both the general public and our local public health officers.”

Meanwhile, EDD maintains it is on track to meet its Jan. 27 deadline of clearing the original backlog of 1.6 million claims. (Newsom in June had pledged to clear the backlog by September, a deadline later pushed to January.) But combining the 943,000 unresolved claims and 1.4 million suspended ones gives EDD a current functional backlog of 2.3 million claims — its largest yet.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 3,039,044 confirmed cases (+0.7% from previous day) and 35,004 deaths (+1.7% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics. 

 

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