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New director appointed to California unemployment department

Posted at 8:29 PM, Dec 30, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's governor has appointed Rita L. Saenz to oversee the state’s unemployment benefits department, which has been overwhelmed by claims during the coronavirus pandemic and also has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in phony claims.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the appointment Wednesday. Saenz is a former director of the state Department of Social Services.

She replaces Sharon Hilliard, who was appointed by Newsom in February but retires this week.

The department has been struggling to deal with a huge backlog of unemployment claims because of the COVID-19 outbreak that shut most nonessential businesses and cost millions their jobs.