Four months into an unemployment crisis spawned by the coronavirus pandemic, about 24,000 people remain unable to get the full benefits they’ve applied for through Maryland’s
The claims of about 4% of applicants are awaiting adjudication in the state’s problem-plagued unemployment insurance system, officials acknowledge. That has left many with little or no income as bills continue to come due. For some, that includes federal and state income taxes due Wednesday.
“I can’t pay the
A private contractor in the trade show business, Peterson is among many whose claims have hit snags in a system that otherwise has successfully processed and approved payments to nearly a half-million applicants.
She said she’s had trouble getting through on jammed phone lines or by email to resolve issues that have resulted in receiving no payments some weeks or less than the full amount others. Her husband, who works in the same field, retained his job but with a pay cut, she said.
“It’s been tough,” Peterson said. “We’ve tightened every belt. We’ve gotten rid of every bill we don’t need. We’ve put things off. We modified the mortgage.
“We didn’t expect it to last as long as it did,” Peterson said.
A spokeswoman for the labor department did not respond to a request for an interview for this article. At a
The indications are that neither the coronavirus nor the economic fallout will be going away soon.
“A lot aren’t reopening,” said state Sen.
Kelley chairs the
A statement by Gov.
Kelley and other legislators say constituents continue to call them with complaints about Beacon even now, albeit at a slower pace. She said it took “some time” for
“Initially, I felt like they were being defensive,” she said.
“I’m still getting daily requests for help, but not to the extent of when we had the hearing,” Kelley said. “There was a time when we were getting hundreds a day.”
“But as far as I’m concerned, until every individual who is eligible gets their money, I don’t think anyone should rest,” Guzzone said.
He and other legislators have referred complaints to labor department staff, and according to some Facebook postings, the legislative intervention sometimes helps applicants get their calls or emails returned.
At last week’s
She said that in a typical week before the pandemic, the state might have had about 2,000 unemployment insurance claims, a number that peaked at about 6,000 during the Great Recession a decade ago.
In some recent weeks, the state has fielded more than 100,000 claims, Robinson said.
“During this pandemic, we have seen over a 5,000% increase,” she told members of the
From early March through late June, unemployed Marylanders have received a “very historical” amount of more than
Of the more than 624,000 claims that have been filed, about 78% have been paid and 17% denied, with about 3.8% -- or almost 24,000 people -- still waiting for a determination.
Those still waiting for an answer may have any number of outstanding issues that need to be resolved, officials have said -- discrepancies in information provided by the employee and the employer, incomplete documentation, and disputes over how much is due, particularly if the claimant has received severance pay or has picked up an occasional gig.
“Some issues may require an interview with the claimant and an employer, which can add to the complexity and timeline of a case,” labor department spokeswoman
Some delays and problems stem from issues with new programs added by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security or CARES Act which expanded unemployment benefits to those previously ineligible, such as gig workers and the self-employed, or those whose medical conditions make them particularly vulnerable during the pandemic.
Ashman suffers from a rare hereditary syndrome that puts her at risk for potentially life-threatening pulmonary problems, and on the advice of her doctor stopped working in March to avoid contracting the coronavirus and its respiratory disease, COVID-19. She had been a teller at a credit union, which continued to pay her for a month, but then was told her continued absence would be considered a voluntary resignation that she was then able to appeal.
Now she waits, and waits and waits, for the resolution of multiple “hiccups” in applying for unemployment, from issues logging in to her
“Its been scary and terrifying,” the mother of a two-year-old said. “My savings have been drained, my BGE bill has skyrocketed because I’m home all day, and I have to rely on people to bring me groceries.”
Her ex-husband, who has been helping out, quarantined with her and their son early on for two week, she said. Ironically, he was able to get unemployment for that period citing her health problems, even though her own application is still pending, Ashman said.
Other issues have served to add to the system’s problems, such as what the FBI called a spike in fraudulent claims involving identity theft.
Some applicants say the balance on the debit cards through which benefits are paid has been taken away and withheld because of possible fraud, and that they’re told they need to upload additional documentation to verify their identity. But some say they have trouble uploading those documents or getting their payments restored.
“To have that wiped away was devastating,” he said, “and now I’m in limbo.”
Brooks said after his work went away, he could no longer afford to live in
Claimants have shared tips on Facebook groups like Maryland DIY -- REAL ANSWERS, which has 27,700 members. Tips include what numbers to hit when you call to trying the Spanish-language option even if you only speak English.
Some in the group worry how they’ll make ends meet when the federal pandemic aid that added
Like others, Peterson said she has had problems resolving how much she is due, which was complicated by the fact that she was able to do some work for one client. She said she has spent as long as 10 hours on the phone, only to be disconnected.
As she awaits resolution, she decided to take a job, even though it pays far less than what she made as her own boss. But it does comes with benefits and, apparently, job security: Peterson expects to begin working soon as a coronavirus contact tracer.
“At least,” Peterson said, “I’ll be a part of the solution to the problem.”
(c)2020 The Baltimore Sun
Visit The Baltimore Sun at www.baltimoresun.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.