California EDD delays push East Bay man into homelessness

The number of unemployment claims continues to overwhelm the California Employment Development Department. One man says those bureaucratic delays have forced him into homelessness.

"I'm more than frustrated. I don't know the right word for anger. I'm angry," Sirmac Javius of Hayward told KTVU on Friday. 

He is angry at the EDD for what he says is a lack of attention to his unemployment claim. He's living out of his truck in West Oakland and works as a day laborer.

"Because of me not getting my unemployment... I'm living in my truck," he said.

He took a long pause and choked up. " I can't even take showers every day," he said. 

Up until last year, Javius was an apprentice barber working in East Oakland.

"I was doing good," he said. "I was raking in $400 to $500 a week."

Then COVID caused barbershops and beauty salons, and many other businesses to shut down.

Javius filed for unemployment 14 months ago. He's still waiting for his first check. He said he's called EDD 80 times and that he has certified all the right paperwork, never getting a reason why he would be denied payment.

"First of all, you can't get through to talk to anybody. They don't answer your emails. I've emailed them at least 50 times," he said.

His plight is not unusual. 

"The system continues to be overwhelmed," said Mike Bernick, a San Francisco labor lawyer and former head of the EDD "As long as you have a large number of Californians receiving unemployment insurance, it is very hard to get the call numbers down." 

Those call numbers are still high.

According to the EDD, it fielded more than 3.4 million calls in the last week of July. But it answered only about 248,000 of them, just 7%. 

The EDD has hired thousands of workers and is upgrading its system.

"It's very frustrating. It shouldn't be this way. But it does ultimately succeed for most people," Bernick said. 

In the meantime, Javius is praying for some of that success. 

"Just want something. Something to take this pressure off me. I don't know how much more of this I can take," he said. 

Javius has contacted his local state senator to help get his case resolved.

The EDD did not respond to KTVU's questions by deadline.