SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Last week, Gov. Newsom announced decreasing coronavirus cases at his Monday press conference. We now know that decrease was due, in part, to a computer system failure that led to the undercounting of COVID cases.
It turns out people within the Department of Public Health also knew about the tech glitch but did not tell the governor. This is just the latest example of a state agency providing the governor with inaccurate or misleading information prior to his public press conferences.
“I was not aware. We would not have put out those data points had we known,” Newsom said Monday, referring to last week’s press conference. “I was made aware later that evening.”
Despite the fact that he did not know about the underreporting, the governor defended his message from last week, insisting COVID-19 cases are, in fact, trending down.
The director of the California Department of Public Health resigned on Sunday following the incident, but this is not the first time something like this has happened. There appears to be a pattern of state agencies giving the governor incomplete or inaccurate information prior to his public press conferences.
“I reached out to you because I had some serious questions about discrepancies and mixed messages,” said Judy, who asked that we not use her full name. Judy contacted CBS13 after the governor’s Great Plates Delivered program did not deliver on the governor’s promises.
She pointed to the governor’s press conferences where he has promoted the program. He repeatedly stated that the food delivery program would provide “three meals a day,” “seven days a week,” with “no cap” for seniors who meet the qualifications.
Judy meets the qualifications and has been accepted into the program, but she has been capped at two meals five days a week.
“It’s a total of 10 meals a week, which is different from what the governor announced and continues to repeat in every briefing,” she said.
According to data obtained by CBS13, fewer than half of the participating cities and counties delivered the promised 21 meals a week. The governor also promised access to the program for seniors state-wide. However, out of the more than 500 cities and counties in California, only 34 — a little more than 6% — are currently offering the optional program.
“I think part of the problem is there’s nobody coordinating, nobody managing, nobody with answers,” Judy said. “There are so many things that aren’t coordinated.”
In a statement, representatives from CalOES, which oversees the program, told CBS13: “An important part of Great Plates, like all of state safety-net programs, is to constantly use data and feedback from the public to refine and improve the way we deliver services to Californians.”
The governor’s press office did not respond to our request for comment regarding the conflicting information about Great Plates Delivered.
ALSO READ: CBS13 Investigates Coronavirus Unemployment
There have also been several incidents where the Employment Development Department has apparently provided California Labor Secretary Julie A. Su and the governor with misleading or false information, causing the governor and secretary to repeat false or misleading claims on behalf of the agency.
“It’s like Oprah or Ellen,” said Nichole, who had struggled for months to collect unemployment from the EDD.
“It’s like ‘you get a car, and you get a car.’ And none of us have got a car. It’s all like broken promises,” she said referring to the Governor’s press conference promises.
ALSO READ: ‘3 Weeks? Where’s My Money?’
We now know that the EDD was not actually getting payments out to claimants in three weeks, despite what the EDD told the governor and what he and Secretary Su repeatedly told Californians. More than three months later, millions are still waiting for their unemployment benefits
For the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) filers, the self-employed, who had to wait seven weeks for the EDD to program its antiquated computers before they could even apply for unemployment, the governor and labor secretary promised they would be paid within 48 hours of applying. That didn’t happen either.
The governor and labor secretary also said those PUA filers would get retroactive payments dating back to when their businesses were shut down. But for many, that didn’t happen either until a CBS13 investigation revealed EDD reps were refusing to backdate their claims
EDD has now vowed to backdate those claims. However, many of the 1.4 million PUA filers are still waiting for the retroactive pay that the governor promised in April on behalf of the EDD.
More recently, the governor issued this press release stating that the EDD would be “addressing the almost 1 million claims that may be eligible for payment with additional information,” adding that “EDD will initiate immediate and weekly reminders to claimants to certify their claim.”
The release implied that those people had failed to do, or submit, something in order to get their benefits. However, in a footnote on this document, EDD acknowledges that hundreds of thousands of those people may have already submitted the necessary information but EDD simply hasn’t gotten to it yet.
EDD also acknowledged to CBS13 that the payment data cited by the governor excludes millions of people who are still waiting for payments. Specifically, they cited “4.8 million people paid” but failed to clarify that included anyone who received even one payment.
CBS13 has heard from hundreds of people who say, after receiving their first unemployment payments, the rest of their claims were listed as pending and remained unpaid. Claimants said they were owed between $2,700 and $8,000 after getting their first unemployment payments. The EDD now acknowledges those people are among the claimants the agency counts as “paid.”
“At the end of the day, the buck stops with me,” the Governor said Monday in response to questions about the Public Health Director’s resignation. “I’m accountable and I recognize that as the governor of California,” Newsom said.
CBS13 asked the governor’s office how he plans to hold agencies, like the EDD, accountable for providing him with inaccurate or misleading information ahead of his press conferences. His office did not respond Monday.
Notably, the public health director resigned in the wake of last week’s misinformation, and lawmakers have been calling on the Governor to replace the director of the EDD.