While unemployment applications continue to surpass 1,000 a week in Frederick County, many applicants are still not receiving their benefits.
Congressman David Trone (D) said about 600 people have come to his office to request help with their unemployment requests since the beginning of the pandemic. Some of those applications are never approved. Other times, they are approved but the applicant never receives their check.
“I think the most simple thing you can say is the unemployment system in Maryland has been a failure,” Trone said. “And we’ve got to get help to the people as fast as possible.”
The applicants began approaching him for help in April, when the nationwide unemployment rate was approaching 17 percent. He still has 529 open cases, he said.
He doesn’t blame the Maryland Department of Labor for the issues, and is in close contact with Secretary of Labor Tiffany Robinson. He knows problems with technology and needing to take on more staff to process the requests has not been easy for the department to handle.
“We’ve seen over 40 million people across America apply for unemployment benefits. It’s kind of like you’re driving a car at 5 miles an hour and all of a sudden you’re going 100,” Trone said. “And it’s really been hard.”
Applications for unemployment insurance surged from 100 claims in Frederick County during the week of March 14, to 1,729 claims the following week, according to data from the Maryland Department of Labor.
The claims reached a peak in the week ending on April 4, when 4,555 people filed for unemployment in Frederick County.
While the numbers have dropped off since then, they are still significantly higher than they were before the coronavirus pandemic began. During the week ending on June 6, 1,479 people filed for unemployment insurance, almost as many that did the first full week of the state shutdown.
In total, 27,287 applications for unemployment insurance have been filed since the week ending in March 14. That does not necessarily mean 27,287 people applied, since some may have reapplied under the Pandemic Unemployment Aid (PUA) after being rejected for regular UI (Unemployment Insurance) benefits.
The Maryland Department of Labor has processed 86 percent of unemployment claims as of June 6, according to a press release. There are currently 70,804 claims pending adjudication, all of which have “one or more issues that are blocking claimants from receiving payment.”
These issues include having conflicting reasons for separation from their previous employer.
Trone said knowing how to fill out the forms can be complicated, since many people were laid off, but others chose to leave due to personal health reasons. His office can help on that front, as his staffers are in close communication with the DOL.
“So we’re just trying to get the whole casework organized, all the right boxes checked so ... they can get paid,” Trone said. “That’s the mission.”
A new system should be rolled out by the Maryland Department of Health this week that will reduce the pending claims by 78 percent, according to the press release.
Those who are denied UI can then apply for PUA, which is a more streamlined and quicker system, wrote Fallon Pearre, director of communications of the Maryland Department of Labor.
Trone encouraged anyone who has been having trouble with their unemployment claims to contact his office via email or telephone.