The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

March 24, 2009
Did EDD's boss offer hints about its current crisis back in 2007?

The five-year "strategic plans" that many state and federal government departments put together often make for great sleep aids for insomnia sufferers. Yet some of them offer historical insight -- and contain clues of troubles to come.

So it was for Employment Development Department Director Patrick Henning. Henning's EDD published a 26-page strategic plan to map its road from 2007- 2011, describing "critical issues and challenges" anticipated by the department.

You can see the whole EDD strategic plan report here.

Perhaps its most interesting part was an introduction by director Henning.

Henning jpeg.jpgTwo years ago, Henning wrote that while the state's economy was healthy, his department had problems of its own as it grappled with technological change at the same time the state's population was growing fast and its ethnic mix was changing.

"Our ability to meet these challenges is not without constraints," Henning wrote.

"Our department's workforce is aging and the majority of our most experienced staff who hold institutional knowledge is transitioning to well-earned retirement," he added.

"The technology that supports our programs and enables our services to be delivered efficiently and effectively is outdated, redundant, and difficult to maintain," Henning continued.

Was anybody in the administration reading or listening to Henning in 2007? We all know what's happened since, but for those of you who may need a quick reminder, here are a few stories The Bee has done on EDD's challenges.

Jobless Californians battle swamped EDD phone lines here.

EDD workers have still been semi-manually processing unemployment insurance claims, despite their department getting $66 million for upgrades from the federal government here.

Then, there's EDD's infamous 5 cent challenge. Each time a caller can't get through, a recorded message plays, and thanks to Verizon, that costs the department - and all taxpayers. That bill has hit $4.4 million in three months alone. Read about that here.

The problems highlighted by such stories are organizational and not the fault of its dedicated, hard-working staffers. The State Worker knows they are putting in countless hours of overtime to deal with the recession and related unemployment crisis.

An Assembly committee on government efficiency may want to ask Henning and his senior officials about all this. If its members do, his strategic plan is must reading.

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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