Report 2010-112 Recommendations and Responses in 2012-041

Report 2010-112: Employment Development Department: Its Unemployment Program Has Struggled to Effectively Serve California's Unemployed in the Face of Significant Workload and Fiscal Challenges

Department Number of Years Reported As Not Fully Implemented Total Recommendations to Department Not Implemented After One Year Not Implemented as of Most Recent Response
Employment Development Department 1 9 5 5

Recommendation To: Employment Development Department

To further enhance its corrective action planning process as a means of improving the unemployment program, the department should establish several key performance targets or benchmarks that are tied to each specific corrective action, to effectively gauge the impact of the actions on its goal of achieving the acceptable levels related to the timeliness measures.

Response

This recommendation has not been fully implemented; the EDD anticipates that this status will be confirmed by the BSA follow-up review report expected to be issued in November 2012. In its 2013 SQSP, the EDD began establishing key performance targets that tied to specific corrective actions. The EDD will continue with this practice when developing its 2014 SQSP by establishing additional key performance targets for the improvement strategies that lend themselves to measurement and include the methodology that will be used to measure the success of those particular strategies. However, while the EDD thinks that not all of the improvement strategies identified in the 2014 SQSP will be discretely measurable due to the nature of the strategies, the EDD will make every effort to tie key performance targets to strategies when possible. For example, marketing strategies to educate claimants about more efficient certification processes are activities that are sometimes difficult to measure outcomes but they are a necessary activity that should ultimately result in performance improvement. The EDD's 2014 SQSP will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor by October 2013.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: October 2013
  • Response Date: October 2012

Recommendation To: Employment Development Department

As part of an overall strategy to limit the number of calls it receives while still providing timely and effective customer service, the department should use existing data and additional data from the new phone system to gain a better understanding of why people request to speak to an agent. Using this information, the department should further develop strategies and measurable goals related to achieving a reduction in call volumes. For example, to ensure that virtually all calls are able to gain access to the voice response portion of its new phone system, the department should monitor the volume of blocked call attempts and work with its phone system vendor if necessary to increase the system's capacity.

Response

This recommendation has not been fully implemented; the EDD anticipates that this status will be confirmed by the BSA follow-up review report expected to be issued in November 2012. The EDD has made significant improvements in increasing the number of callers who have accessed UI phone services. Between 2009 and 2011, there was a 94.4 percent decrease in blocked calls and an increase of 77 percent in answered calls. A key factor responsible for these improvements is the implementation of the UI Modernization Call Center Network Platform and Application Upgrade project. Implementation of this project contributed significantly to improving access to EDD's call services when Primary Call Centers received the new call center infrastructure and the capacity was expanded to include Primary Adjudication Centers in February 2011 and the Anaheim Pacific Center in June 2011.

The UI Branch continues to analyze its phone system call volume data along with other non-phone workload items such as on-line inquiries (i.e., Ask EDD), eligibility determinations, appeals, adjustments, etc. to identify opportunities to improve customer service. The UI Branch regularly balances the various workload levels with available staffing levels through daily workload management activities in an attempt to meet customer service demand and federal performance measures.

The UI Branch has focused on high-priority efforts to continue to improve and expand overall access to UI services. Efforts such as the automated Telephone Claim Filing Wrap-Up and Transfer project, the Public Service Program expansion to train more staff statewide, the incorporation of the ABP information into the existing Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system implementation, and the UI Modernization Continued Claims Redesign (CCR) project all have or will have a positive effect on public access to UI program services. The EDD has prioritized and focused resources and funding in these efforts to gain the most on its investment by increasing access to more information via self-service options on the IVR or UI on-line services.

The CCR project will significantly enhance the IVR system by adding new claimant self-service functionality. When the EDD completes the CCR project in March 2013, it will:

Enhance the EDD TeleCertSM and the EDD WebCertSM by expanding the types of claims that can be processed by these self-service certification channels. These new services will provide a more user friendly method of certifying for UI benefits that will assist in reducing common errors made on the paper Continued Claim form that can cause benefit payment delays. Also, the CCR project will gather more eligibility information upfront from the claimant during the certification process and is anticipated to help improve determination timeliness and quality.

Reduce the need for callers to speak to an agent or submit an on-line inquiry request by providing callers with additional information through the IVR and more self-service functionality through an on-line claimant account.

Performing an extensive analysis of call volumes and developing comprehensive strategies before the CCR project is completed would not be a productive use of EDD's limited resources for two reasons. First, the IVR code is currently frozen while the CCR project is underway. The EDD's Information Technology Branch places a code freeze or moratorium on programming code changes that can affect or jeopardize the integrity of ongoing information technology projects. The IVR code freeze will prevent code changes to be released into the CCR project and protect the integrity of that project. Therefore, no actions based on the findings of our analysis could be implemented until after the CCR project is implemented in March 2013. Second, the EDD expects the CCR project will have an impact on call volumes and when a caller needs to speak with an agent. Once the CCR project is complete, the EDD will conduct a more comprehensive analysis to determine what changes would be cost beneficial for further improving service access and delivery for EDD customers. The EDD expects to conduct this analysis in 2013.

However, the EDD recognizes the value in obtaining information about why callers request to speak to an agent before the CCR project is implemented. Accordingly, prior to implementing the CCR project, the EDD will begin surveying claimants who have phoned and requested to speak to an agent to obtain more specific reasons for the calls and requests. This data, obtained outside the phone system, will be analyzed to determine what changes could be made to EDD's service delivery systems. This information will also assist the EDD in identifying potential enhancements to the IVR when changes to the IVR are once again allowed.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: September 2013
  • Response Date: October 2012

Recommendation To: Employment Development Department

To evaluate the effectiveness of its other efforts to provide services to claimants in ways that do not require them to speak to agents, such as Web-Cert and Tele-Cert, the department should periodically summarize and assess the more robust management information available under its new phone system.

Response

This recommendation has not been fully implemented; the EDD anticipates that this status will be confirmed by the BSA follow-up review report expected to be issued in November 2012. The EDD has made significant improvements in increasing the number of callers who have accessed UI phone services. Between 2009 and 2011, there was a 94.4 percent decrease in blocked calls and an increase of 77 percent in answered calls. A key factor responsible for these improvements is the implementation of the UI Modernization Call Center Network Platform and Application Upgrade project. Implementation of this project contributed significantly to improving access to EDD's call services when Primary Call Centers received the new call center infrastructure and the capacity was expanded to include Primary Adjudication Centers in February 2011 and the Anaheim Pacific Center in June 2011.

The UI Branch continues to analyze its phone system call volume data along with other non-phone workload items such as on-line inquiries (i.e., Ask EDD), eligibility determinations, appeals, adjustments, etc. to identify opportunities to improve customer service. The UI Branch regularly balances the various workload levels with available staffing levels through daily workload management activities in an attempt to meet customer service demand and federal performance measures.

The UI Branch has focused on high-priority efforts to continue to improve and expand overall access to UI services. Efforts such as the automated Telephone Claim Filing Wrap-Up and Transfer project, the Public Service Program expansion to train more staff statewide, the incorporation of the ABP information into the existing Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system implementation, and the UI Modernization Continued Claims Redesign (CCR) project all have or will have a positive effect on public access to UI program services. The EDD has prioritized and focused resources and funding in these efforts to gain the most on its investment by increasing access to more information via self-service options on the IVR or UI on-line services.

The CCR project will significantly enhance the IVR system by adding new claimant self-service functionality. When the EDD completes the CCR project in March 2013, it will:

Enhance the EDD TeleCertSM and the EDD WebCertSM by expanding the types of claims that can be processed by these self-service certification channels. These new services will provide a more user friendly method of certifying for UI benefits that will assist in reducing common errors made on the paper Continued Claim form that can cause benefit payment delays. Also, the CCR project will gather more eligibility information upfront from the claimant during the certification process and is anticipated to help improve determination timeliness and quality.

Reduce the need for callers to speak to an agent or submit an on-line inquiry request by providing callers with additional information through the IVR and more self-service functionality through an on-line claimant account.

Performing an extensive analysis of call volumes and developing comprehensive strategies before the CCR project is completed would not be a productive use of EDD's limited resources for two reasons. First, the IVR code is currently frozen while the CCR project is underway. The EDD's Information Technology Branch places a code freeze or moratorium on programming code changes that can affect or jeopardize the integrity of ongoing information technology projects. The IVR code freeze will prevent code changes to be released into the CCR project and protect the integrity of that project. Therefore, no actions based on the findings of our analysis could be implemented until after the CCR project is implemented in March 2013. Second, the EDD expects the CCR project will have an impact on call volumes and when a caller needs to speak with an agent. Once the CCR project is complete, the EDD will conduct a more comprehensive analysis to determine what changes would be cost beneficial for further improving service access and delivery for EDD customers. The EDD expects to conduct this analysis in 2013.

However, the EDD recognizes the value in obtaining information about why callers request to speak to an agent before the CCR project is implemented. Accordingly, prior to implementing the CCR project, the EDD will begin surveying claimants who have phoned and requested to speak to an agent to obtain more specific reasons for the calls and requests. This data, obtained outside the phone system, will be analyzed to determine what changes could be made to EDD's service delivery systems. This information will also assist the EDD in identifying potential enhancements to the IVR when changes to the IVR are once again allowed.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: September 2013
  • Response Date: October 2012

Recommendation To: Employment Development Department

To better track and improve the timeliness of determinations for the training benefits program and to assist claimants in understanding self-arranged training requirements, the department should track and report the number of claimants it determines are both eligible and ineligible for the self-arranged training and the reasons for these determinations, to better focus some of its recommendations toward how it can assist claimants in understanding the program's criteria.

Response

The EDD believes this recommendation has been fully implemented; however, the EDD anticipates BSA will consider this recommendation to be partially implemented because the EDD has not yet developed the comprehensive recommendations regarding program improvements that will be due to the Legislature in 2016. The EDD acknowledges that it is waiting to collect more data before developing those recommendations, but it has not delayed taking action to provide additional information to claimants about the program criteria based on data collected so far.

In July 2011, the EDD implemented a process to track claimants who are eligible and ineligible for the self-arranged training in the CTB program and the reasons for the determination outcomes. The EDD has posted Fact Sheets, Tip Sheets, and YouTube videos to the EDD website to assist claimants to better understand the requirements of the CTB program. The EDD will continue to analyze this information to identify the primary reasons for disqualifications and will take appropriate steps to market additional information for claimants to assist them in understanding the program's criteria.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: 2016
  • Response Date: October 2012

Recommendation To: Employment Development Department

To better track and improve the timeliness of determinations for the training benefits program and to assist claimants in understanding self-arranged training requirements, the department should track the number of claimants that it finds to be both ineligible for self-arranged training and ultimately ineligible for unemployment benefits and develop strategies to expedite the determination process for these claimants.

Response

This recommendation has not been fully implemented; the EDD anticipates that this status will be confirmed by the BSA follow-up review report expected to be issued in November 2012. This recommendation was based on CTB program data from 2009. In 2009, the average time frame for processing determinations was 23 days. Through EDD's streamline efforts and improvements in overall determinations' timeliness, the average wait time for a CTB determination appointment during 2011 was reduced to an average of 9.4 days.

Claimants are denied UI benefits for many reasons not related to CTB issues such as not being able and available to work, or the reason for their separation from employment. Because the EDD does not know until the determination is complete whether or not claimants will be eligible for UI benefits, there is no way to single out claimants attending school or training for an expedited determination. The EDD continues to focus on improving the timeliness on all determinations so the CTB determinations will also be processed more timely.

Performing an analysis as recommended by the BSA would be extremely labor intensive and costly. However, the EDD agrees with BSA's most recent recommendation to implement an alternative strategy to select a quarterly random sample of claims through the end of 2013 and identify the reasons for claimants being found ineligible for CTB benefits and ultimately ineligible for UI benefits. Using this sample data, any areas that are repetitive and specifically interconnected with the CTB program will be reviewed for potential process or educational improvements.

  • California State Auditor's Assessment of Status: Not Fully Implemented
  • Completion Date: February 2014
  • Response Date: October 2012

Current Status of Recommendations

All Recommendations in 2012-041