SACRAMENTO — The California Employment Development Department (EDD), the agency responsible for distributing unemployment benefits to millions of the state’s laid-off employees, has itself begun laying off thousands of its own staff members.
“It happened so sudden,” said Lester Lunves, a former EDD clerk, who was waiting in line to open a new unemployment claim. “One day I’m helping people get the money they need to survive the economic crisis; then suddenly I’m on the other side of the counter.”
Unemployment workers have been among the hardest hit by the economy, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Unemployment offices throughout the country are laying off thousands of their best and brightest.
“American unemployment workers are the best in the world,” said Senator John McCain (R-AZ). “It’s a sad day for our country when our unemployment offices can no longer compete with their overseas counterparts.”
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the layoffs were necessary due to cuts in the state budget. He has asked the Obama administration for help.
“The State of California does not have the three-hundred million dollars needed to keep these unemployment workers on the payroll,” said Schwarzenegger. “Therefore, we have requested five billion dollars from the federal government to provide them with the weekly unemployment benefits they so deserve.”
In addition, Schwarzenegger said the unemployed unemployment workers will need assistance retraining for alternative employment.
That assistance, normally provided in California by the Employment Development Department, has been discontinued due to a staffing shortage caused by the recent layoffs.
“I’d like to try my hand at being an oral hygienist,” said Lunves. “But where do I start? Who will teach me the steps I need to take to pursue this new career?”
Lunves believes his only hope is for the federal government to intervene.
That hope may be just around the corner. Governor Schwarzenegger has asked President Obama for a additional $3 billion to hire and train ten thousand new unemployment clerks, who will assist the former unemployment clerks with finding new employment.
“The unemployment of unemployment workers is unacceptable,” said Schwarzenegger, “and I will see to it that the unemployment workers hired with this money from Washington will facilitate new employment for the previously employed unemployment workers.”