Over 240,000 Maryland residents have filed for unemployment benefits in the past month, with just under half of those coming in the last week.
That’s what Gov. Larry Hogan told residents of his state at a briefing Friday afternoon.
The last week of claims was greater than the state dealt with in the entirety of 2019.
“There is nothing more important to me than getting our economy and our people back on their feet,” Hogan said, emphasizing that he knows those numbers represent “a struggling Marylander who is experiencing real economic hardship right now.”
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While the claims are surely expected to continue for some time, Hogan and Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson asserted that 95% of people who are trying to make their initial claim online have been successful.
For those who have not yet been successful, either by phone or using their computer, the state is adding resources to help.
Not only is phone support available Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. but also, starting April 18, the state will offer phone support on Saturdays.
For those applying online, the state is adding servers and detailing hundreds of state employees to help with receiving and processing unemployment claims. Additional help is also being contracted.
“Even one unemployed Marylander not being able to be handled is completely unacceptable to me,” Hogan said. “Which is why I directed the Maryland Department of Labor to use every resource at their disposal.”
Robinson said her agency is “all hands on deck to provide Marylanders with the financial support that they need.”
She encouraged those who still need to start their initial claim to make another attempt online during off-hours, either late at night or early in the morning. The system is available 24/7, she said.
“No matter how or when you file [every resident] will get help they need and receive every single penny they are entitled to as quickly as possible,” Hogan said.
Robinson detailed the state’s plan to help those who traditionally would not be eligible for unemployment support, including independent contractors, gig workers and those who don’t have a deep enough work history.
Specific questions related to the expanded benefits authorized by the federal CARES Act can be viewed via a document posted to the Maryland Department of Labor’s page.
The state is currently asking those who need phone assistance to only call in later in the week or on the days designated for the first initial of their last name. Monday calls are for those whose names range from A through F; Tuesday is for those from G through N; and Wednesday is for O through Z. Thursday, Friday and, starting next week, Saturday, calls will be open to all.
Robinson and Hogan both assured Marylanders that they would receive their full financial benefit starting with their first week of eligibility, no matter when they open their claim.
Robinson said the state has made over 215,000 payments so far, totaling in excess of $76 million, and beginning next week, the state will be able to add funds from the federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program, which entitles claimants to an additional $600 per week.
In addition, residents who are waiting for the funding earmarked by the federal CARES Act, known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, should send their email address to the Maryland Department of Labor so they can be notified as soon as the state is ready to accept their claim.
There is a field where you can enter your email address about halfway down the main Department of Labor unemployment page.
“We know what is at stake,” Robinson said. “We do not take our responsibilities lightly, and we will do everything in our power to support you during these uncertain times.”