California’s unemployment office is behind on 1.6m benefits applications. And it’s growing by 10,000 cases a day

At her lowest point during the pandemic, Rachel Gomez-Wafer estimated that she was calling California’s unemployment office about 150 times a day.

When California shut down in March, the boutiques where Gomez-Wafer sells her organic skincare line, Dorothy Mae and Dominga, closed. The craft fairs and festivals where she makes most of her profits were canceled. She applied on 4 April for the pandemic unemployment assistance that was available to her as a small business owner but, like hundreds of thousands of other Californians who have filed for unemployment benefits, she soon found herself tangled in a months-long bureaucratic nightmare.

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