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Delay in unemployment insurance benefits affecting claimant's mental health

Posted at 3:17 PM, Jun 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-01 18:36:28-04

BALTIMORE — The financial strain caused by the pandemic is taking an emotional toll.

For months, thousands of claimants have been waiting for their unemployment insurance benefits.

Local legislators have been sending individual cases to the Maryland Department of Labor, but a number of claims remain unresolved.

According to a survey taken by State Senator Katie Fry Hester's office, of the 64 responses they received, 65 percent have not had their issues resolved, and 59 percent have received no benefit funds.

While the survey was taken a few weeks ago and may not accurately reflect how many claims are still open, Judy Guerrieri, a legislative aide in Hester's office said she continues to receive calls about unemployment insurance daily and worries about the impact its having on claimants.

"It's pretty much all I do all day now," said Guerrieri. "And in so many cases, we’re the first live person they’ve talked to in many, many weeks."

On Monday, Guerrieri and Senator Hester (D-Carroll & Howard Counties) expressed their concerns for constituent's mental health in an interview with WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii.

"I called somebody about two Fridays ago at 7 p.m. just cause I was worried they weren’t going to make it through the weekend. And I was able to talk to this lady, I was able to encourage her to go out Saturday to go to a local food bank to get some food, and then I've been texting her like every other day," Hester said. "The people that I’ve talked to have mentioned they’re contemplating suicide, they’re writing about suicide on the Maryland Unemployment DIY Facebook page, so I would love to see the health department monitoring that page and reaching out to people."

With the Department of Labor inundated by the unprecedented number of claims, Hester said they're unable to get claimant’s issues immediately resolved, but they’re able to connect them with additional resources.

"Please call your state senator. My job is to help you. You are my number one priority. And we may not be able to help with the unemployment right now, but we will do everything to make sure you have a roof over your head and are fed," said Hester.

They're also willing to hear your concerns, to empathize, and assure you you're not alone.

"I want to be able to help them, and it’s extremely frustrating to not have the mechanisms to do that, but we can listen and we can find them other resources and that’s the best we can do right now," Guerrieri said.

Mental health resources
If you’re struggling mentally or emotionally or having suicidal thoughts, call the state’s 24/7 helpline at 2-1-1 and press option 1. Text 898-211, or visit pressone.211md.org.

Find a therapist that offers telehealth at psychologytoday.com/us/therapists.

Crisis text line: Text HOME to 741741 for free, 24/7 crisis counseling.

Sheppard Pratt offers both a walk-in and virtual Crisis Walk-in Center. Click here or call 410-938-5302 for assistance.

Contact your local health department, or get help through Maryland’s Public Mental Health System (PMHS).

Hospitality industry professionals struggling with addiction or mental health issues, there's an open Zoom conversation held weekly on Mondays at 7 p.m. EST. Participants are asked join the Zoom with a “pen name" to keep their identities anonymous. You also have the option to leave your audio and video off and only utilize the chat function. The Zoom ID is 889 7926 1677, password 058531.

Facebook support group on conquering anxieties and fears surrounding COVID-19.

A list of crisis services and mental health resources provided by the Howard County Library System.

Click here for additional state resources.