California’s Julie Su could be up for a big promotion. As Joe Biden assembles his cabinet in advance of January, she’s reportedly on a list of candidates to be labor secretary. But a look at Su’s recent track record should call her qualifications into question.
Under Su’s leadership, the state’s Labor and Workforce Development Agency — which handles the pandemic unemployment system — has experienced “the most significant fraud on taxpayer funds in California history.” Following months of delayed or unpaid unemployment insurance benefits, it’s come to light that the agency paid out almost $1 billion in fraudulent benefits to California prison inmates.
Unfortunately, this disaster looks like it was a long time coming. Su acknowledged that there were issues with the state’s unemployment insurance system back in April. She even took ownership of the problems: “I need to own the things that we are not doing right. We need to fix those things, we need to make sure that we are accurate, that we are timely and that we are providing services.” But it seems not enough was done to right the ship.
Su blamed an outdated system for the delays and malfunctions that countless Californians experienced when trying to access their UI benefits. But the state of the system was well-known prior to the coronavirus crisis. A $30 million Employment Development Department modernization program was launched four years ago; however, it was inexplicably being reported as still “in the planning stages” when the pandemic hit.