Assembly chairs move to shore up EDD

The chairs of several Assembly committees said today they’re providing $2 million in new aid – freed up by a 10 percent cut in the Assembly’s operating budget – to California’s beleaguered Employment Development Department, which is being swamped by an average of two million calls per day during peak times.

“These tough economic times require shared sacrifice,” said Assembly Labor and Employment Committee chairman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda. “We are committed to doing all we can to help Californians in need.”

“Our job is to help people maintain in between their employment, become gainfully employed and contribute to the economy by being consumers and then supporting business and the growth of the economy.”

With California’s unemployment rate at 9.3 percent — and apparently climbing — EDD will use the money to conduct unemployment-insurance seminars in major rural and urban areas; provide personal computers to One-Stop partners; buy remote-access equipment; and support a public information campaign with new outreach technologies.

“When people are out of work in these trying economic times, we need to be responsible by funding programs that create jobs and help Californians find jobs,” said Assembly Insurance Committee chairman Joe Coto, D-San Jose, whose panel oversees unemployment compensation. “This new funding will be critical in getting people the benefits they earned.”

Meanwhile, the state’s coffers continue to ring hollow. More on that, after the jump…

New cash figures released today by state Controller John Chiang show January’s totals were $2.18 billion below the same month of last year, with personal income tax alone dropping by $1.62 billion (-19.5%). But the decline in revenue was expected, and January’s totals were actually $223 million stronger (3.0%) than those estimated in the Governor’s 2009-10 budget projections.

Still, the state remains in a severe cash crisis. Chiang said he must delay several kinds of payments for 30 days in February, or else see the state’s money remaining in special funds available for internal borrowing drop from a scant $2.7 billion at January’s end to $346 million in the red by February’s end.

“Right now the state has only $6 to pay for every $10 worth of bills, and the state’s constitution and federal law are both clear on which payments have first claim to available funds. In order to save the State from defaulting on those payments, I have no choice but to delay some payments,” Chiang said in his news release. “With receipts running this short, the Legislature and Governor must move with all haste to craft a new budget with sound solutions.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.