More than 1,100 Marylanders sign up to testify about unemployment issues

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

More than 1,100 Marylanders have signed up to testify on Tuesday about the problems with the state’s unemployment insurance system.

Members of the Maryland Senate Finance & Budget and Taxation committees are planning to listen to nine hours of testimony on Tuesday “to ensure that the maximum amount of Marylanders can have their voices heard,” officials said in a news release from the office of Senate President Bill Ferguson.

The first 270 who signed up will testify during the committees’ hearing, which will be live-streamed on the Maryland General Assembly’s YouTube channel.

The remaining individuals who sign up will be able to submit video testimony for the committees, members of the public and the Hogan administration to listen to.

Soon after the Maryland Department of Labor launched a new online unemployment insurance application in April, users complained about glitches with the website.

The following week, Gov. Larry Hogan said that the labor department and Sagitec Solutions, the firm contracted to build the website, had fallen short of expectations. But Hogan ultimately took responsibility for the application’s issues and pledged to fix it.

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

Nearly two weeks after the application went live, labor department officials said wait times had been reduced and the website’s performance had improved.

Hogan said last week that the website was “completely fixed and functioning.”

But Delores Kelly, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Guy Guzzone, chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said that the more than 1,100 Marylanders who have signed up to testify demonstrate that the Hogan administration has not resolved the issues with the unemployment system.

“This is an unprecedented level of interest from Marylanders, and we hope the Governor, [Department of Labor] Secretary [Tiffany] Robinson, and their staff are listening and take appropriate action. It is our responsibility to provide an opportunity to elevate these Maryland residents’ voices, and we hope this hearing results in solutions from the Administration,” Kelley and Guzzone said in a joint statement.

Despite Hogan’s assurance that the website had been fixed, applicants continue to complain about nonpayment, delays in payment, and other issues, The Baltimore Sun reported.

The labor department has released a series of video tutorials to help claimants navigate the unemployment website.

As of May 2, almost 500,000 Marylanders had filed for unemployment since March, when the state confirmed its first coronavirus cases.

Marcus Dieterle


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