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Maryland lawmakers vent the frustrations of their unemployed constituents

MD labor secretary challenged in committee meeting
Posted at 9:09 AM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 09:09:16-04

BALTIMORE, Md. — The state labor secretary got an earful Tuesday from state lawmakers who are voicing the frustrations of their unemployed constituents with the Beacon 2.0 website.

It's been an ongoing problem for the unemployed throughout the pandemic but many are still having problems filing their weekly claims.

Many are not happy with what the state labor secretary believes is the solution to the problem.

Secretary Tiffany Robinson expects things will get better next month, once the state opts out of the federal program that gives people an extra $300 a month, but that's not what people want to hear as many say they still need that extra money.

Despite the state labor secretary saying the system is working fine, many people have shared screenshots of error messages they've received, errors such as captcha issues or service unavailable messages.

State lawmakers grilled Robinson about the ongoing issues with the Beacon 2.0 website during Tuesday's House Econimic Matters committee meeting.

Lawmakers told Secretary Robinson about the dozens of calls they get every day.

The Maryland Department of Labor insists the Beacon 2.0 system is in working order. Robinson said the problems are only related to high volume and backlog.

However, many claimants said it’s not working for them as they're having trouble just trying to log into the system.

Robinson said “we implemented 10 brand new, federal unemployment insurance programs, and added hundreds of thousands of customers into our system that had never been eligible for benefits before. Those federal programs have new and changing requirements, and they overlap with programs. A claimant sometimes bounces back-and-forth between eligibility of which programs with which triggers issues on their claim.”

“Some claimants might have multiple issues to be adjudicated throughout the life of their claim. They must file a weekly certification and redetermine their illegibility every single week. We've hired over 2 thousand," Robinson said.

District 45 Del. Talmadge Branch (D-Baltimore City) said "madame secretary.. i'm talking about very poor people in the district I represent."

“They're trying to get the basic benefit that's owed to them because they're no longer working. i'm trying to get them money that they haven't received in months," Branch added.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers say there needs to be a better workaround to these issues with the state's website such as allowing people to file claims in person.

District 7 Del. Richard Impallaria (R-Baltimore County and Harford County) said “I’m not saying you know 70%, I’m not saying 50%, but five to 10% should be allowed to go back in person at request. Not everybody’s computer literate, not everybody can use the systems. I think it’s very discriminatory, especially like delegate Branch was saying to his constituents who may not have access to the internet, there should be a way that that can happen. And, there’s businesses that there is no internet."

Anyone filing claims has until Saturday to file their weekly claim in order to prevent any interruption in benefits, however, many who are having trouble logging in might not be able to file in time.