Md. Department of Labor has paid 327,649 unemployment Insurance claims

Posted at 2:08 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 18:21:42-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland's Department of Labor says they've paid out 327,649 unemployment claims filed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The department says 90% of people who've filed, received payments within 21 days. Since Saturday alone, 56,000 claims have been paid totaling more than $165 million.

“The unprecedented volume of new claims, and constantly changing guidelines from the federal government, have presented a series of challenges not only for our department, but for unemployment programs across the nation,” said Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson. “While we are making progress, there are still many frustrated Marylanders waiting to receive benefits. Please know that we are listening, we know what needs to be improved, and we are focused on getting the job done. We will not be satisfied until every Marylander gets the relief they need and deserve.”

To put that into perspective, the department says they received only 214,475 claims throughout all of 2019. That amount has already been doubled since just March. Before the pandemic, the department would see a weekly average of 2,000 new claims. But since the virus, some weeks have seen over 100,000 claims come in.

In order to deal with the mass influx of claims, the department says it's more than doubled its claim center staff, and built a new one-stop website to handle all sorts of claims.

Maryland says it's the only state with a system that allows citizens to file a claim for both regular and CARES Act unemployment insurance benefits in one place. The online portal got off to a rocky start leaving thousands of citizens without the ability to file. But for the most part, those problems have since been fixed.

RELATED: Barely no wait time to file for unemployment online, says Md. Labor Dept.

The state says they're working with the U.S. Department of Labor to relax and waive some of the federally regulated eligibility requirements for regular claims.

One way the state is doing that is by exempting the work search requirement for the remainder of the state of emergency plus 30 days.

Other standards affecting someone's potential eligibility, such as being able to work and available for work have also been loosened. The Division of Unemployment Insurance now automatically registers residents to use the state's public jobs system. Deadlines to return documentation, protest determinations, and file appeals have also been extended. But many procedures can't be waived, including weekly claim certifications and the adjudication process for claims where issues are detected.

The department warns just because someone files for benefits, doesn't automatically mean they will be approved. The applicant's information has to be verified, then the department needs to get in touch with the employer to find out why the worker is unemployed, and after that, a determination is made on whether the applicant is eligible. Normally the process takes 21 days, but all claims are different which means some can take longer or less time than others.

READ MORE: Questions about Maryland unemployment? We have answers.

Some issues that could come up and cause a delay include insufficient documentation, disagreements between the employer and claimant on why they're unemployed, and wage discrepancies or issues with incorrect information, which may require feedback from the employer and/or claimant. All would require a manual review and adjudication before someone is accepted or denied benefits.

Of the claims that have been denied, the large majority was because the applicant earned too much income. Anyone making over $430 a week is ineligible for regular unemployment insurance benefits. Also those who voluntarily left their job or were fired for misconduct are disqualified.