Following the roll-out of a new unemployment website that frustrated many users with long lines and technical problems, Gov. Larry Hogan today pledged to make fixes so every Marylander who applies for benefits can receive them.
Hogan said the Maryland Department of Labor and the firm contracted to build the website, Sagitec Solutions, fell short of expectations, but responsibility for the shortcomings in distributing benefits is ultimately his.
“The people of Maryland deserve better and the buck stops with me,” he said.
Since the site launched five days ago, more than 245,000 accounts have been activated and more than 100,000 claims have been filed, Hogan said.
On average, the site is averaging 33 new accounts per minute and 780 successful claims per hour. And while he said Maryland is performing better than other states, “it is simply not good enough.”
The site launched last Friday in response to residents who dealt with jammed phone lines at the labor department and complaints about long waits. Already the state has received more unemployment claims related to the COVID-19 pandemic than it did in all of 2019, Hogan said.
He also noted that coverage was extended to people who previously did not qualify, such as freelance workers and self-employed people.
But as soon as the web portal, known as the BEACON One-Stop Online Application, went online to meet increased demand, it crashed. 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.
Secretary of Labor Tiffany Robinson previously told Fox 45 the agency did not anticipate issues with volume because Sagitec Solutions was using a cloud-based system.
On Tuesday, she wrote an email apology to users.
“The launch of the site has clearly fallen short,” she wrote. “We share your frustration, and are committed to ensuring the site is fully functional and operating without capacity delays as quickly as possible.”
The site is being taken down every morning from 1-3 a.m. to work on glitches. Sagitec has said it deployed 100 staffers to work on any bugs and performance issues.
The labor department has also hired more than 100 workers to help process claims.
Speaking today, Hogan said he’s happy for all the people who have received help but frustrated that others are still waiting for much-needed relief.
“With all of the economic struggles that people are already going through, they should not have to worry about getting the resources that they need and that they deserve,” he said.
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