To those seeking jobless benefits, agency gave customer disservice

"What's amazing is that if you go to the EDD's website, it looks like nothing is wrong," Olinka said. "It almost feels like they're pretending that nothing has happened."

That's an extra kick in the teeth to a lot of people who are struggling to get by.

Mark Hess, 55, of Woodland Hills has it a bit better than others who are completely out of work. His hours at a fundraising firm were cut back earlier this year and he's relied on partial unemployment payments to pay his bills.

Since August, when the EDD's computers went kerblooey, Hess hasn't received any checks nor any of the forms he needs to apply for additional payments.

"I'm cutting back elsewhere," he said, "but it's tough."

And it's not just people with job issues. It's people seeking disability coverage, which also is handled by the EDD.

Shannon Bellamy, 47, of Winnetka has been dealing with severe headaches. They've gotten so bad that she had to go on medical leave last month from her job as an underwriting manager for an insurance company.

Bellamy tried to apply online for disability payments. She tried to call the EDD. Like others, she kept running into a brick wall.

"That's difficult to deal with when you're also dealing with a medical problem," Bellamy said.

I wanted to ask someone at Deloitte how the company explains such troubles resulting from work that was supposed to cost $58 million but instead ran up a tab about twice as large.

I wouldn't have minded asking how the EDD project compared with a separate gig in which Deloitte was hired by California officials in 2003 to connect computers in every municipal and state court.

That work was originally estimated to cost $33 million. After about 10 times that amount had been spent, officials pulled the plug on the project. A final bill of nearly $2 billion was forecast if things had continued.

Unfortunately, no one at Deloitte responded to my calls or emails.

Loree Levy, a spokeswoman for the EDD, said the agency feels bad about what happened to people who needed jobless benefits.

"The EDD sincerely apologizes to those customers who did suffer the impact of our temporary backlog," she said. "We truly do understand just how critically important these benefits are to those who are unemployed, their families and their communities where these funds help sustain basic services."

That's nice. And I think we can all agree that stuff happens.

Being jobless, though, is hard enough. If the EDD can't make things better, it certainly shouldn't make them worse.

David Lazarus' column runs Tuesdays and Fridays. he also can be seen daily on KTLA-TV Channel 5 and followed on Twitter @Davidlaz. Send your tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com.

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