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Claimants have concerns about federal unemployment benefits as they're expected to end in less than a month

Posted at 10:35 PM, Jun 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-15 23:12:03-04

BALTIMORE — In less than a month, additional federal aid for unemployment claimants will come to an end and thousands of out-of-work Marylanders are bracing for what’s to come.

Many of them have reached out to us about their frustrations.

“Instead of being able to make it through the summer, with some sort of financial stability, instead we’re now trying to scramble and figure out how we’re going to do this,” said Trisha Watkins.

Watkins says she lost her job in March of last year. The mother of two was an operations manager for three food service locations.

The unemployment benefits are what kept her afloat, but now that Governor Larry Hogan is opting out of the federal unemployment programs, she not only won’t be getting the extra $300. But she also lost her benefits entirely.

"It seems like there’s so many other ways that you could’ve gone about instead of just so carelessly playing with people’s lives," she said. "That’s really what it is. It’s not money...it’s lives.”

Watkins says she recently received a letter from the Department of Labor saying she was ineligible to get benefits.

She says it was a mistake and the only way she can appeal is by calling the agency.

But Watkins says she’s never been able to talk to anyone on the phone.

“I never spoke to an agent over the phone other than the first time they called me,” she said.

Governor Hogan says his decision was partly based on companies not being able to find workers. Watkins says she tried to get a job, but it’s been incredibly hard with her kids out of school.

“It's not that you're taking away a free ride. Maybe for some people. But I genuinely don’t feel like that’s the situation for most people especially when you have schools systems that didn’t open completely,” she continued.

She’s hoping the general assembly reverses the Governor’s decision because if not, her bills will keep coming even after the unemployment payments stop.

"If we can find jobs or had the availability to do so, if our kids were in school...'well just put them in daycare', how are we supposed to just put them in daycare most of us have run through our savings,” Watkins said.

WMAR plans to follow up with the state about Watkins' appeal, and her complaints about trying to reach an agent by phone.