Md. lawmakers introduce emergency legislation to fix unemployment system

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Posted at 7:20 AM, Feb 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-12 07:20:51-05

BALTIMORE — Maryland lawmakers introduced emergency legislation to improve the state’s unemployment insurance system.

Over the last several months, lawmakers have listened to claimant’s frustrations and sent their information to the Department of Labor but didn’t have the power to make sweeping changes.

Now that the General Assembly is in session, lawmakers have proposed a series of measures in response to the complaints they continue to hear about the system.

“I’ve been calling and calling and calling and no one’s answering,” said Danielle Barkley.

“At this point, I’m just so beyond frustrated with the system,” said Richard Schwartz.

Senate Bill 893 requires the department to implement systems and processes so people no longer have to wait on hold before being given the option to leave a phone number for a callback.

Lawmakers want caller ID when the department attempts to contact a claimant, and for voicemails to include clear instructions.

The bill would require the department to explain the cause of an overpayment notice and when it occurred and provide applicants with three options for payment — paper check, state-issued debit card, or direct deposit.

Lawmakers are also seeking standards for timely processing of claims for benefits, which would include 92 percent within 21 days of the initial application. In December, the state was at 37 percent, according to federal data.

And they’re expecting 97 percent of claims requiring adjudication resolved within 8 weeks.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can to try and get money effectively and quickly to everyone,” said Senator Kathy Klausmeier, chair of the Unemployment Insurance Oversight Committee.

The legislation would take effect as soon as it’s approved, but it’s unclear exactly when and how the department would be able to implement what’s included in the bill.

A hearing on the bill is scheduled for March 2.