Almost 48,000 Maryland residents filed for unemployment benefits last week, an increase of nearly 6,000 from the previous week, according to the Maryland Department of Labor.
The 47,801 claims for the week ending June 20 brings to 843,052 the number of people who have filed for benefits in Maryland at some point during the last 14 weeks. During that period, the state has averaged more than 60,000 claims per week — roughly 10 times the number of the average week during The Great Recession.
State Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson said the state has processed more than 95% of the 571,836 claims received between march 9 and June 20. Of those, 448,897 have received a payment, she said.
“As our department continues to focus on processing the earliest unemployment insurance claims filed during the pandemic, we are pleased to report that we have processed more than 95% of all complete claims and paid over $3.3 billion in benefits,” Robinson said in a statement. “Our team is committed to building upon this positive progress in the coming weeks as we continue to cut through the backlog, communicate with our customers, and provide financial support to eligible claimants.”
The department has come under criticism for a backlog of claims dating back to March as well as a website that crashed within hours of going live.
On Thursday, the department said it had reduced the backlog of claims to 24,913 or about 4.4%. That figure is 10,000 claims fewer than the previous day, when Robinson updated members of a joint legislative panel on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the backlog has been cleared by shifting some claims into a recently created federal program for pandemic assistance. Last week, the state reported reclassifying 43,797 claims under a federal program meant to extend benefits beyond the traditional 26 weeks.
The department added nearly 9,500 claims in the last week to those that have been reclassified into the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
Despite the clearing of back claims, lawmakers are pushing for the department to begin sending checks of up to $1,200 to residents who apply even as they wait for the state to properly process their claims.
Some states, including Washington and Rhode Island, have found themselves victims of fraudulent claims that were paid out too quickly.
Robinson on Wednesday said Maryland and other states were subpoenaed for documents related to claims over the last nearly four months.
The secretary said the review was not an indication that the state had also paid fraudulent claims.
“We are happy about the fact that we have not been targeted, that we are aware of as of yet — as some other states have been in terms of fraudulent claims — groups of fraudulent claims,” Robinson told lawmakers Wednesday. “We’re obviously determined to get all eligible claimants paid if they are eligible, but the pressure from the federal government to maintain program integrity is real.”
The national unemployment rate for the week ending June 13 was estimated at 13.4 %.
Nationally, 1.48 million people filed for benefits, a decrease of about 60,000 compared to the week before, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The report Thursday marked the 14th consecutive week that first-time claims have surpassed 1 million. Nearly 48 million people have applied for benefits at some point since March.