BALTIMORE — Maryland Secretary of Labor Tiffany Robinson said at least 25 adjudicators are being added each week to address the backlog of pending unemployment insurance claims.
As of last week, more than 44,000 claims were still pending.
In an interview on Friday, WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii asked Robinson for a timeline on when claimants can expect to hear from someone with the Division of Unemployment Insurance.
"As quickly as we can possibly get to them that’s my answer. What I can tell you is, you’ve probably seen with all the weekly claim numbers, there was a period of time where the claims started to reduce but they have gone back up. This week, we had over 15,000 new claims, so while our pending numbers and the backlog look like they maybe haven’t changed, we are resolving hundreds and hundreds of cases every single day and week but new claims come in and present new issues," Robinson said.
However, Kristian Ritchie isn't a new claimant, she's been waiting 25 weeks for a fact-finding interview.
"I’ve been telling them my struggles. I am a single mom, I do have bills, my daycare shutdown so that’s why I was not at work," Ritchie said.
Terry Gerard filed the first week of October and has yet to hear from anyone.
"Right now, I’m about to have my car repossessed because I haven’t been able to make my payment and this is the second month I haven’t been able to make my rent payment and I’m afraid by the end of the month I’ll be evicted from here as well," Gerard said.
In addition to more adjudicators, 150 call center agents were added this past week bringing the total to 575 employees answering phones.
Robinson said Salesforce software has helped the department better keep track of claims and avoid doubling up on work. A new feature will also be offered to claimants by the end of the month.
"In the response that a claimant gets is a case lookup link so not only does the claimant get their case number but there’s a link to lookup the status of their case. So if a claimant clicks on that link, plugs in their case number, they will see that the case is assigned to an agent in progress and last date the case was modified," said Robinson.
Aside from stressing about when they'll be able to pay their bills, hundreds of thousands of Marylanders may lose their benefits at the end of the month if Congress doesn't pass a new relief package.
The Maryland Department of Labor estimates around 220,000 Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and 30,000 Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) claimants could lose their benefits when the CARES Act expires.
Robinson said any claimants still in the adjudication process will receive their benefits, even after the deadline.
"If a determination is still being made whenever that determination is made -- January, February, hopefully not March, those claimants will be entitled to all benefits that are due to them no matter the program even if it was CARES Act. It’s simply the people that are filing, receiving their benefits, if they have eligible weeks, we need them all filed prior to the expiration of the deadline," said Robinson.
The U.S. Department of Labor only allows states to pay claimants for a full week of unemployment, so PUA and PEUC benefits are scheduled to end on December 26. For more information on the deadline, click here.