Failed California EDD is just another example of failed government service

Today I met the first people around me lost their job (temporarily) because of COVID-19, my eye doctor.

I was very happy meeting him after one year for my annual eye exam — while I totally did NOT expect a shocking story that he lost his job for about 3 months because of the statewide lockdown. I never imagined people like eye doctor will be affected by this pandemic since it’s such a highly skilled profession. While what I found is he was forced to switch from full-time employee to contractor basis last year, and then when the lockdown happened, he *lost* his income since no way for him to check people’s eyesight via Zoom.

He went on share the terrible experience of applying for the unemployment benefit at California EDD(Employment Development Department). To talk to a call center agent, he had to speed dial for more than 30 mins, then he needed to go thru a long *journey* to get the payment in the next months.

To be honest, this is my first time heard of EDD and this story, then I Googled it, found it was real, even at this very moment, there is still 900,000 in backlog waiting for processing and payment.

Keep googling, found more info about the cause, and a clear one is — The outdated IT systems. EDD still relies “on old and obsolete technology, including COBOL which is nearly impossible to modernize.” COBOL is a programming language that dates to 1959.

This is the golden state as the home for world-leading high tech companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Netflix, Zoom etc. can you imagine the government supporting Silicon Valley is still relying on a 50’s IT infrasture like COBOL!?

As a high-techer, I feel sad and little angry about this incompetent of our local government — we pay the almost highest state income tax across the country, while got this 3rd world level of government service and infrastructure (Look at Caltrain, BART, highway, Airport etc.) We need a better way to hold our local government more accountable on allocating and managing huge tax collected for Californian!

First and foremost — EDD should outsource its IT system and operation to a well-known silicon valley based high tech companies to end its disaster with modernized IT infrastructure to help every Californian affected by not only this pandemic but also something unknown in the future.

[11/28/2020] Found a highly relevant YouTube video about California State Gov’s long history of IT project failures.

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Tommy Kan

A lifelong learner and explorer! Grew up in Asia, now enjoying the dynamism of Silicon Valley in the sunny California.