California’s PUA Needs Work

Earlier this month the governor of California signed Executive Order that created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program(PUA). Created as a means to help support freelance, self-employed, and gig economy workers who do not qualify for unemployment. Though it was an order from the government it seems to have taken a long time and has been plagued by numerous issues since it came on my today. The Program is an extension of the already existing Employment Development Department, why was it so hard to implement what should have been minor adjustments to their system?

When California announced the creation of the PUA program many of California’s self-employed and freelance workers were glad.

Now though many are frustrated, in addition to the initial payments not being as high as expected a rash of technical issues has slowed the application process. To be fair the program was brought online in record/short time and some issues are to be expected. What is not expected is for complicated instructions for using the online application or for the website to crash. Other reports indicate that despite the fact the program was specifically designed so that an applicant didn’t have to be seeking employment many were denied for that reason. Many are also frustrated that it may take several days for the debit cards they were given to become active. Others though thrilled to be receiving payments are a little disappointed with the amount.

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A question that quickly to mind is why it took so long to implement a program with so many issues on its first day. As spokespeople for the program have said they “brought an entirely new program online in a very short time. However, they did not explain why they didn’t simply adjust the existing program. It would seem to have been the easier option, requiring only a few adjustments. These adjustments could perhaps have been implemented until the pandemic had run its course. If the situation required them to rush through changes wouldn’t have been easier to implement these changes on an existing program. Instead, they seem to have created a new and very technically challenging system.

California should be applauded for implementing emergency adjustments to the unemployment system. The pandemic caused by the coronavirus has created a situation that the original unemployment system was never designed to handle. That being said the course they chose to implement this action seems to have created issues that will take days to fix. Perhaps a good way to look at the situation would be through an analogy. If the unemployment system is a pencil with a broken point do you sharpen a pencil or buy a new one on a short one instead?

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