Department of Labor says unemployment website’s performance has improved

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A screengrab of the entry page for the state’s new unemployment site.

The Maryland Department of Labor on Tuesday said wait times on the agency’s unemployment website have been reduced, nearly two weeks after the site launched and users complained of long lines and technical problems.

Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson said in an online update the department has automatically reactivated benefits for some users, even though “piecemeal” federal guidance has created some confusion around weekly claim certifications.

“For instance, federal guidance has required states to capture additional information from claimants as they complete their weekly claim certification,” Robinson wrote. “Marylanders found these new required questions to be confusing, resulting in numerous claimants inactivating their eligibility for unemployment benefits.”

Marylanders whose accounts went inactive on Sunday or Monday after filing their certification will have their benefits automatically restored without needing to fill out the form again, Robinson said.

Anyone whose claim went inactive prior to that can file their weekly claim certification like normal.

As a result of the changes, users experienced “zero to minimal wait times” on Sunday and Monday, Robinson said. Prior to the publication of this story, Baltimore Fishbowl visited the site twice and encountered wait times of six minutes and less than one minute.

On Sunday alone, claimants filed 141,000 certifications, more than double the 56,000 that were processed on a week prior, Robinson said. Another 60,000 claims were processed on Monday.

“We continue to enhance our capacity, and expect to build on this progress in the days ahead,” Robinson said.

The site launched on April 24 to deal with the swell of residents who dealt with jammed phone lines at the labor department. It crashed shortly after going online.

Once it was operational, people who got through reported virtual lines with tens of thousands of people ahead of them to access an unemployment application.

After numerous complaints about performance, Gov. Larry Hogan on April 29 said the Maryland Department of Labor and the firm contracted to build the website, Sagitec Solutions, fell short of expectations. But the governor ultimately took responsibility for the failure of the roll-out.

“The people of Maryland deserve better and the buck stops with me,” he said.

Robinson said today the agency will continue to monitor how well the site operates.

“As issues arise, we are working as quickly as we can to resolve them,” she said. “Nothing is more important to us than ensuring that all eligible Marylanders receive the benefits they need and deserve as soon as possible.”

Brandon Weigel

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