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Md. official acknowledges backlog of unpaid job claims

Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Maryland’s labor secretary told a panel of lawmakers Wednesday that the state is working as quickly as possible to clear a backlog of unpaid unemployment insurance claims filed over the last six weeks.

Department of Licensing, Labor and Regulation Secretary Tiffany Robinson acknowledged the backlog during a conference call with the General Assembly’s Joint COVID-19 Work Group.

“Some claims, for example, we might have a claimant worried and calling and emailing over and over again because they filed back in March and have not been paid,” said Robinson. “There are so many issues that could lead to a situation like that.”

Robinson said in some cases, payments are delayed when information provided by the employer contradicts information provided by someone filing a claim, including regarding sick or severance pay.

“There has to be an adjudication,” said Robinson. “That’s the process that takes a little bit longer and every case is different. The clean cases that have no issues and the information is confirmed 100% by the employer, often we are able to approve those and get payments out very, very quickly. But it does kind of differ across the board.”

More than 340,000 Marylanders have filed for benefits in the last six weeks.

The unprecedented number of claims has inundated the department’s phone and website systems, causing delays and frustrations.

But in the last week, as the state struggled to right a one-stop website that crashed within hours of going into operation, some have complained that they are still waiting for checks weeks after successfully filing a claim.

The site was beset by crashes and long wait times as out-of-work Marylanders languished on their phones and in front of their computer screens.

House Speaker Adrienne Jones asked Robinson when those back claims might be paid.

“That’s a tough question to answer,” said Robinson, who went on to say her agency was “paying a large percentage of our claims.”

Robinson told lawmakers she was unable to provide specific percentages of claims being paid but said the agency has a document that tracks such information.

A spokeswoman at the department did not respond to a request for details of the document or for additional comment.

In the meantime, Robinson said that her agency is working with Bank of America to fast-track payments once claims are approved.

“We asked them to help us expedite the debit cards and payments once we are able, very very soon, to start approving the federal pandemic unemployment assistance claims,” said Robinson.

State officials have struggled with the unemployment claims process since Gov. Larry Hogan issued a stay-at-home order and closure of non-essential businesses.

Last week, Hogan took personal responsibility for fixing the site and making it functional.

On Wednesday, Hogan declared the issues with the site resolved.

“I said we were going to get the website fixed,” said Hogan. “We got it fixed.”

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5 comments

  1. How is it that other states can get their system up and running but Maryland despite the hype over this Beacon system cannot?

    Its been weeks since ZI applied yet I’ve heard nothing. This is very frustrating not just for me but anyone else who is going thru this process. Too bad Hogan isn’t up for reelection this year.

  2. They acknowledge it. OK, awesome. Fix it? I can acknowledge lots of things, but what does that help?

  3. Abovemypaygrade

    I’m one of those cases where my benefits have been unpaid since March, and I’ve gotten a slew of perplexing and contradictory boilerplate letters. On May 8, I received a notice that I’d been overpaid in the amount of one of only two weeks’ benefits I’d ever received. No explanation was included, except to note that the “determination” had been made on April 15. (I last worked as a temp for two days in mid-March, and had fully and timely reported that fact and all of my income.)
    After seven weeks of unpaid benefits, I’ve contacted everyone I can think of–elected officials have been unresponsive, even when my request was for was generalized data regarding the volume, amount and percentage of unpaid claims. How can any agency with stewardship of public funds allowed to thumb its nose at answering to citizens or their elected representatives making valid inquiries for non-confidential data, and why do we tolerate this lack of responsiveness? Even the story above doesn’t provide any meaningful data–why is Secretary Robbins “unable” to provide specifics if the agency has “a document that tracks such information”? Why shouldn’t Marylanders and their legislators have real-time access to such information? Was this obvious question even asked?

  4. I lost my job back in March. At first it was temp and then I received a letter stating that it is permanent due to workforce reduction. My former employer verified my employment and reason back on April 17th. It took unemployment that long to even verify that information

    Today is now May 14 and I have yet to receive any benefit payments.

    Trying to speak with someone by phone is useless. That Beacon system sucks because it is not updated as they promised.

    In the meantime, I am screwed through no fault of my own.

    Frustrated in Baltimore

  5. i stop receiving my unemployment all of a sudden the week of july 5th 2020 it is now September 23, 2020 and am waiting for the adjudication all of my documents have been uploaded as to the reason being i am unable to work all i keep getting is the run around first it was you just need your doctors note then it was your job put a refusal to work now its unemployment that raised the red flag. Why is everyone giving me the run around this is very frustrating and would love some answers. What’s the real issue here can someone tell me that.
    Maryland

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