BALTIMORE — Maryland workers promised unemployment insurance benefits under the CARES Act have waited weeks to file claims. And when they were finally able to apply last Friday, the site crashed.
The BEACON one-stop application system was supposed to make it easier for claimants to file, instead its been riddled with technical issues and glitches. For that, the Maryland Department of Labor’s Division of Unemployment Insurance has apologized.
In an email, Secretary of Labor Tiffany Robinson wrote: "The launch of the site has clearly fallen short. We share your frustration, and are committed to ensuring the site is fully functional and operating without capacity delays as quickly as possible."
The agency partnered with Sagitec, an outside vendor, to implement programs under the CARES Act. Robinson said attempting to reprogram their older systems would've taken weeks, if not months.
"We were hopeful that our partnership with the vendor would provide rapid solutions. Instead, it has caused a series of challenges for applicants. The vendor’s platform could not sustain the volume of visitors to the site. This was not acceptable, and we are taking immediate actions to fix these problems," Robinson wrote.
To remedy the technical issues, the system will be taken down overnight between 1a.m. and 3 a.m. until the problems are fixed.
And they've implemented a new gating system to reduce the number of customers accessing the application at any one time.
On Sundays and Mondays, only customers who are filing weekly claim certifications will be able to file. If you are unable to file your weekly claim certification on Sunday or Monday, you are not restricted from filing it on any other day.
On Tuesdays through Saturdays, customers can file new claims as well as complete all other activities.
Anyone trying to access the system will be put into a virtual waiting line. A number of claimants sent screenshots to WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii showing their number in line, with some exceeding 300,000.
Brandon Matter, a hair salon owner, waited five hours for his turn on Monday.
"Once I got into the website and I used my verified username and password, it then took to me URL error and server error, which it automatically kicked me back out and now I’m having to wait in the queue again," Matter said.
His mom, Darlene Matter-Rains, owner of Passions Beauty Boutique, also waited hours to finish her claim without success.
"We can’t contact anybody from unemployment," she said.
On Friday, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vowed to stay on top of the vendor, until they get it right.
"We’re gong to hold their feet to the fire to make sure they get all the glitches worked out." said Hogan.
According to a spokeswoman with the Maryland Department of Labor, since the new BEACON one-stop application launched on Friday, there have been over 179,000 accounts activated, over 61,000 new claims filed, and over 138,000 weekly certifications submitted.
Sagitec Solutions released a statement on Monday afternoon addressing the issues:
These are unprecedented times. State Workforce Agencies currently face the highest volume of unemployment claims this nation has ever seen. Sagitec partnered with the Maryland Department of Labor to develop BEACON One-Stop. In essence, a portal for Marylanders experiencing unemployment to file claims, submit documentation and receive benefits through any device, including a mobile app.
We worked with Maryland to launch BEACON One-Stop on Friday, April 24. While we anticipated and load-tested for an extreme volume of Marylanders to file claims through the system, we have experienced unexpected performance issues. We know that this is an already extremely trying time full of confusion and worry. We apologize for the frustration that performance issues have caused Marylanders and their families.
Sagitec is committed to making BEACON One-Stop work well in Maryland. We have deployed over 100 staff resources working around the clock to fine-tune the system’s performance. While these optimizations are nearly complete, we’ve also temporarily used a solution component that enables claimants to reserve a “place in line” to help manage the load. This ensures a better user experience while allowing us to continue providing improvements rather than bringing the system up and down and adding to user frustration.
We understand that Marylanders need their benefits. Here are some statistics we can share with you about usage from the launch on Friday, April 24 until April 27, at 5:55 pm:
We will continue to partner with the Maryland Department of Labor until all Marylanders that qualify for benefits are receiving them.