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California’s troubled unemployment benefits department will soon have its third director in the past two years. Gov Newsom announced the appointment of Employment Development Department Chief Deputy Director of External Affairs, Legislation and Policy Nancy Farias as Director of EDD, filling the role held by outgoing Director Rita Saenz since 2020.

Director Saenz will continue to serve the Administration by resuming her role as a Commissioner on the California Commission on Aging.

Farias has served as Chief Deputy Director of External Affairs, Legislation and Policy at the California Employment Development Department since 2020. Farias was Director of Government Relations at SEIU Local 1000 from 2017 to 2020. She was Deputy Chief of Staff in the Office of Senator Henry Stern from 2016 to 2017 and District Director at the Office of Assemblymember Mike Gatto from 2015 to 2016.

Saenz was appointed by Newsom back in 2020 to help turn the department around. This after it was dealing with a record number of unemployment claims as well as fraud claims. Since the pandemic EDD has been dealing with fraud, long wait times and frozen accounts, among other issues.

Saenz, who led the California Department of Social Services in the early 2000s and is a former executive with Xerox Corp., came out of retirement to lead the department in 2021 as it was plagued by fraud and a backlog of payments.

Since then, the agency has received 26.4 million claims and paid $180 billion in benefits. But about $20 billion of those payments went to scammers who posed as prison inmates and, in one instance, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein to fool state officials into sending them checks.

The department recently uncovered another fraud scheme as scammers were posing as doctors to trick state officials into issuing them disability checks.

As director, Saenz sought to implement 21 recommendations from the California state auditor. The department has implemented five of those recommendations so far, while the rest are in various stages of implementation. In a memo announcing her resignation, Saenz said she had only planned to stay with the department for a short time.

Also Jeffrey T. Killip of Olympia, WA, has been appointed Chief of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health at the California Department of Industrial Relations. Killip has served as Acting Deputy Assistant Director of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries since 2021.

He served in several positions at the Division from 2012 to 2017, including Industrial Hygiene and Laboratory Manager for Technical Services and Rules Manager. He was a Policy Health Analyst at the Washington State Healthcare Authority in 2010 and a Public Health Law Consultant at the Northwest Center for Public Health Practice at the University of Washington from 2009 to 2012.