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Coronavirus economy: Nearly 2,000 more Anne Arundel County residents file for unemployment, overall claims drop by 43%

Nearly 2,000 more people filed a jobless claim in Anne Arundel County last week, a consistent rate seen over the past three weeks as some businesses reopen with restrictions and a smaller staff. Others have closed permanently.

Maryland’s rate of filed claims dropped significantly after steadily increasing for three weeks. Maryland Department of Labor recorded a 43% drop in people seeking jobless benefits this week, with 37,383 claims filed, according to labor data. More than 66,500 people filed for unemployment insurance the week ending July 4.

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Statewide, claims from about 4% of applicants are awaiting adjudication in the state’s problem-plagued unemployment insurance system, officials acknowledge. That has left many with little or no income as bills continue to come due. For some, that includes federal and state income taxes due this week.

Anne Arundel County launched a new initiative Monday, funded with CARES Act money, to ease financial burdens for struggling residents who don’t qualify for unemployment benefits.

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The program, called the Excluded Worker Humanitarian Relief Fund, will dole out 4,000 debit cards loaded with $500 each for low-income residents who don’t qualify for financial assistance and who have been directly impacted by the economic effects of COVID-19.

So far, the program has received nearly 250 applications in four days, said Bekki Leonard, communications and outreach manager for Anne Arundel Workforce Development, the organization that runs the relief fund.

Applications translated in Spanish will soon be posted on aawdc.org. Residents will be able to pick up their $500 debit card at pop-up locations throughout the county once applications are processed.

Last week 1,189 Anne Arundel County residents filed a regular jobless claim, while 339 regular claims were reclassified as PUA claims. The state started reclassifying regular claims as federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims to push applications further along in an overwhelmed system that has left out or cut off funds for thousands of Marylanders.

The state labor department announced Wednesday that it “uncovered a massive and sophisticated criminal enterprise involving more than 47,500 fraudulent unemployment insurance claims in Maryland and totaling over $501 million.” Fraudsters are using stolen personal information to try to obtain unemployment benefits, the department said in a statement.

Nationwide, another 1.3 million laid off or furloughed workers filed a new jobless claim last week.

Although businesses have been open for weeks across the United States, coronavirus cases are spiking in several states, causing concern over the economy’s ability to bounce back. The week ending on July 4, the U.S. Department of Labor recorded 32 million unemployed workers remaining on the federal program for emergency financial assistance.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jean Marbella contributed to this report.

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