BALTIMORE — Federal unemployment insurance programs in Maryland expire in a little more than a week, but thousands of claimants are still waiting for their benefits.
On Wednesday, Maryland Secretary of Labor Tiffany Robinson attended an Unemployment Insurance Oversight Committee hearing to discuss implementing new legislation, however, lawmakers had questions about issues that surfaced months ago.
“I’m behind about two weeks,” said Cassandra Tenkate.
Tenkate had been receiving benefits for about a year, then her account was suddenly frozen.
“I live in a camper so everything I own and my children’s things are in storage, and I don’t want to lose that. My payments are coming up and I have no source of income right now,” Tenkate said.
Tenkate is one of 37,088 people whose claims have been flagged as potentially fraudulent and are pending review.
“There was no prior communication asking you for ID before shutting off your benefits?,” asked WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii.
“Nope. And I had to figure that out on my own,” Tenkate said.
Delegate C.T. Wilson (D-Charles County) continues to hear from constituents wanting to know when their documents will finally be reviewed and approved.
“So they don’t know why they’ve been flagged, they don’t know how long they’re going to be flagged for, and they don’t know the status of their claim,” said Wilson.
Secretary Robinson’s answer to this problem is a new vendor that’ll automate the process, and it’s been her answer since February when WMAR-2 News asked her about the thousands of people who were waiting back then.
WMAR-2 News also asked about the selection of a vendor in May.
“It has absolutely taken longer than we anticipated,” Robinson said during an interview with Sofastaii in May. Robinson added that procurement protocols held up the process.
On Wednesday, Robinson confirmed Lexis Nexis had been awarded a $7.3 million contract on May 18, however, they’re still not up and running.
“They are literally still being integrated into our system so they can complete that work more quickly,” said Robinson.
For the tens of thousands of claimants still waiting, it hasn’t been quick enough.
“Marylanders are hurting. We’re hurting, and it seems our elected officials don’t see the day-to-day that’s going on with the average people,” Tenkate said.
While fraud has been a major problem with 1.3 million claims confirmed as fraudulent, Tenkate doesn’t believe claimants should have to wait weeks, sometimes months, when they've submitted all of the verification documents requested of them.
Aside from the 37,088 claims pending review, 24,109 claims are pending adjudication and still need to be investigated.
WMAR-2 News has also learned that the Maryland Unemployed Workers Union plans to file a class action lawsuit on Thursday requiring the state to pay claimants who have been waiting months on end.