"We're working claims from last year" Unemployment adjudicator shares what she believes is causing long delays

Posted at 6:00 AM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 18:15:43-04

BALTIMORE — Unemployment insurance claims filed in Maryland last year are still under review.

An adjudicator working for Alorica, the California vendor hired to reduce the backlog of claims pending adjudication, believes the convoluted process is causing long delays.

“We’re working claims from last year - March, April, May, June, July still,” she told WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii.

She said she’s one of 400 adjudicators hired to review claims and determine whether a claimant is eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, but the process doesn’t end there.

“What they’re not telling you is that once that process is complete, Alorica is taking that claim and we’re putting it into this other queue for review and it’s right now, around 3,800 claims are either waiting for an auditor or a QA [quality assurance] person to look at them,” the worker said.

The worker asked to remain anonymous over concerns she could lose her job and be stuck in the same unemployment cycle, but she wants claimants to know what’s happening behind the scenes.

“This quality process takes anywhere - for a claim to get reviewed by auditing - anywhere from 4-6 weeks then it has to go to quality again and it can be sent back. We’re just round-robining all these claims,” she said.

The Maryland Department of Labor selected Alorica in November 2020 to help with the large number of claims pending adjudication.

In February, the Board of Public Works approved the nearly $71 million one-year contract to supply additional staffing and immediate assistance adjudicating a large backlog of pending claims.

According to the worker, the 400 adjudicators are required to get through 8-16 claims per day or 1-2 per hour, then they’re sent to an auditor to be reviewed. She said there are just 11 auditors, which is creating a bottleneck and contributing to the backlog.

“We don’t know how long these claims are going to sit before they’re actually processed fully through adjudication or benefits denied or benefits on hold released. And we’re giving claimants false hope. We’re calling and saying, ‘Oh, we’re working on your claim.’ Well, we are but we’re not making any determination for quite awhile,” she said.

She added that changing policies and procedures have made it more confusing and time-consuming.

“We don’t really know what’s right because what’s right today and that claim finally gets reviewed by an auditor, sits 6 or 4 weeks from now, that procedure may have changed, so it’s going to fail that audit but it would’ve passed had something been in place when it was originally done,” she said.

The worker was recruited by Alorica to serve as an adjudicator. At first, she liked that she was able to help people, now she feels that's no longer the case.

“I used to be like, oh, I helped five people get their money or I caught two people who weren’t entitled to benefits so they’re not going to get more money, but now it’s just, you know, it’s a mill, you come in and you do what you have to do to get through the day,” she said.

WMAR-2 News contacted Alorica several times by phone and email. A spokeswoman sent the statement below:

"All 400 adjudicators consistently have claims processing work during their shifts. In collaboration with the Department, we continue to do everything we can to ensure unemployment insurance claimants receive the eligibility determination and payments they are entitled to and in need of. The standard operating procedure for processing a claim is straightforward and well understood by the adjudication team. In addition, adjudicators are provided with the tools and training required to process claims efficiently and effectively which has allowed for the successful processing of more than 60,000 claims on behalf of Maryland claimants."

WMAR-2 News also reached out to the Maryland Department of Labor. A spokeswoman said that as of the week ending May 8, 27,468 (3.2%) claims were pending and to contact Alorica for more information about Alorica's processes.

WMAR-2 News sent additional follow-up questions. This story will be updated with any new information.