Maryland Labor Secretary Hears Concerns Over Unemployment Enforcement | New
ANNAPOLIS, Maryland – The state’s mobile app for unemployment assistance needs better functionality and accessibility, state lawmakers told Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany on Thursday Robinson.
Since 2020, Robinson and his office – the Maryland Department of Labor – have come under fire for having an overloaded system that has frustrated thousands of Marylanders for months trying to get their jobless claims processed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Robinson said a tidal wave of claims – many fraudulent – flooded his office.
The state uses the free BEACON mobile app, which allows Marylanders on the iOS and Android platforms to view their unemployment claim details and weekly benefit amounts.
The Maryland Department of Labor plans to upgrade the app with more information for users about employment, monetary details, dependents and appeals, Robinson said.
But state lawmakers at the meeting raised more fundamental concerns about the mobile app.
Maryland residents in need of unemployment insurance cannot register, submit an initial application, or even download documents from the app, said Senator Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel), Del. Jared Solomon (D-Montgomery) and Senator Craig Zucker (D-Montgomery).
They described the strain this placed on their constituents and staff members.
“We were getting a lot of phone calls from voters who, when they lost their jobs, lost the only access they had to a computer. A lot of them were using the app, ”Elfreth said.
“Our offices have become de facto offices of the Ministry of Labor over the past year and a half, desperately trying to get our constituents the funding they need to keep a roof over their heads, food. on the table, ”Elfreth added.
Solomon said his chief of staff opened his house to voters who needed a computer and a scanner to upload documents for unemployment insurance.
“If people don’t have a computer, they can’t register… When will the mobile app be able to allow people to register? Zucker asked Robinson.
Robinson replied, “This was not an initial intention of the app, simply because of the feedback we received that filing an initial request on the app wouldn’t be very user-friendly. “
However, Robinson added, “If this is the feedback you hear, that more customers need to be able to do this on the app, then we will re-evaluate… We will definitely research that with our supplier and get back to you.”
The Department of Labor’s continued problems with fraudulent unemployment claims have also affected Marylanders’ experiences with the BEACON unemployment system.
“[Unemployment benefits] cases began to be closed en masse. Many of them … had been tagged for [potential] fraud, ”Del said. Cathi Forbes (D-Baltimore County).
After Forbes voters proved they hadn’t filed fraudulent claims, “they all got emails saying their case was closed. And they never received any money. It was… a tremendous amount of stress on my constituents, ”Forbes said.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the state Department of Labor has marked 1.7 million unemployment claims for potential fraud and identified 1.5 million of those claims as truly fraudulent, according to Robinson’s presentation Thursday.
“We have certainly implemented all kinds of security features to fight fraud during this pandemic,” said Robinson.
The state Department of Labor has received more than 2.9 million new jobless claims since the onset of COVID-19 and has paid Marylanders more than $ 14 billion in state and federal benefits, according to the submission by Robinson.
Capital News Service reported in March that Robinson said the state Department of Labor was unprepared for the exponential increase in jobless claims during the pandemic. The lack of preparation stems from the ministry’s understaffing and hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent claims.
This resulted in delays of several months for people in precarious financial situations awaiting unemployment assistance.
Robinson said Thursday that the state’s labor department has added more than 2,000 new UI employees as representatives of the state’s call centers, adjudicators and staff.
In 2020, Maryland’s unemployment rate rose to 9% in April from 3.5% in March, after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic and Governor Larry Hogan (R) has ordered all non-essential businesses in the state to shut down.
As the pandemic continued and Maryland’s delivery of unemployment assistance stalled, state and federal lawmakers wrote letters to Hogan and Robinson – urging the couple to pay benefits more quickly. unemployment insurance benefits for Marylanders.
More recently, more than 185,000 people in Maryland were unemployed in September. The state’s unemployment rate was 5.9%, exceeding the national unemployment rate of 4.8%.