xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Maryland unemployment claims expected to continue to soar

After a record-setting number of unemployment claims last week, Maryland is poised for another dramatic increase when the latest numbers are issued on Thursday.

The federal government releases weekly reports of unemployment claims at 8:30 a.m. on Thursdays. Last week, Maryland and the nation saw a dramatic and devastating rise in unemployment attributable to the coronavirus pandemic.

Advertisement

Of the more than 3 million Americans who sought unemployment assistance from March 15 to 21, Maryland’s total was nearly 42,000 claims — a number that will be “blown out of the water” in this next round of reporting, according to Tiffany Robinson, the state’s labor secretary.

“We have experienced an unprecedented surge in claims traffic," Robinson said Wednesday on a conference call with state lawmakers who are serving on a coronavirus work group.

Advertisement

Maryland’s 400 workers who process unemployment claims typically handle about 2,000 claims per week, she said. They’ve been working extra hours and on Saturdays to help process the surge in applications.

The state Department of Labor is encouraging those who have lost their jobs to stagger when they call or go online to request assistance, with last names A through F filing on Mondays, last names G through N filing on Tuesdays and last names O through Z filing on Wednesdays and all names on Thursday and Friday. Robinson said Marylanders will be helped whenever they call, but she said she hoped the voluntary system could help spread out the work.

The state phone system for unemployment claims runs from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. weekdays, and applicants also can file for benefits online. The online system has been overloaded with people across the country filing claims, so Robinson suggested going on the website early in the morning or late at night.

She asked lawmakers to spread the word to their constituents that they will get unemployment checks even if it takes a bit.

“Benefits will be paid, back through the time they were separated from employment,” Robinson said. “Just because they can’t get through now, or they’re having trouble now doesn’t mean that they’re not going to get their benefits.”

Another challenge for processing claims is that many applicants are applying for unemployment for the first time, and are unfamiliar with the terminology and details of how the program works, Robinson said. Her workers are doing their best to walk applicants through the process.

“Some of the calls that we are taking are Marylanders who are dealing with some of the worst situations they’ve dealt with. They are worried and concerned,” she said. “And yet our 400 state unemployment insurance employees are also going through this pandemic. They’re worried about their own families and they are coming in to work.”

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement