Press Release

April 22, 2020
Maryland Congressional Delegation Discusses Skyrocketing Demand for Unemployment Assistance with State Labor Secretary
Members of Congress also examine effectiveness of new incentives provided in federal recovery measures

WASHINGTON – Several members of the Maryland congressional delegation, including U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen and Congressmen Steny H. Hoyer, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, John P. Sarbanes, Andy Harris, M.D., Anthony Brown, Jamie B. Raskin and David Trone, today discussed with Maryland Secretary of Labor Tiffany P. Robinson the unprecedented challenges to the state’s unemployment insurance program. The conversation followed up on a letter the delegation sent last week to Secretary Robinson offering support and assistance in ensuring that Marylanders in need are able to receive unemployment insurance in a timely manner.

“Our shared efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 have placed a major strain on our economy, and the steep rise in the number of Marylanders requesting unemployment assistance underscores this stark reality,” said Senator Cardin. “Team Maryland is dedicated to finding ways to help all impacted Marylanders, and today’s conversation with Secretary Robinson was a chance to learn more about the challenges, both short-and long-term, that we face as a result of this crisis.”

“As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the livelihoods of thousands, ensuring Marylanders can access badly needed unemployment assistance must be a top priority. Due to the unprecedented needs and high demand, many of our constituents continue to have trouble signing up and receiving these funds. I appreciate Secretary Robinson speaking with us today on how we can work together to address the challenges outlined in our delegation letter and make sure Marylanders are able to receive the help they need at this critical time,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Families around the state are experiencing severe financial difficulties as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and Congress has responded by expanding unemployment assistance and providing an additional $600 per week for those who are unemployed in the CARES Act,” said Congressman Hoyer. “Secretary Robinson and her team are working to respond to thousands of individuals calling in each day, and I appreciate their work to help families access unemployment assistance during this unprecedented crisis. However, I share the frustration of many of my constituents who are experiencing long wait times in accessing help. We must continue to work together to ensure that those seeking assistance can access it in a timely manner, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the federal Delegation to address this challenge and ensure our state has the resources it needs to help families struggling during this unprecedented time.”

“Responding to this historic pandemic is going to take coordination on the federal, state and local levels and I want to thank Maryland’s labor leadership for their outreach and communication to the Congressional delegation,” said Congressman Ruppersberger. “We are hearing from many worried and frustrated constituents who are now out-of-work and need help accessing benefits as soon as possible. We heard today that Maryland’s employees are working overtime to process these claims and we stand ready to assist with this unprecedented demand any way we can.” 

“Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of Marylanders are out of work and experiencing serious financial challenges,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “Congress moved quickly to strengthen Unemployment Insurance and help hardworking families make ends meet. However, the unprecedented demand for these benefits has caused significant delays in processing claims. I appreciate the work of Secretary Robinson and her team at the Maryland Department of Labor to address the extraordinary volume of claims and provide assistance, but more must be done in order to help Marylanders weather this crisis. The Maryland Congressional Delegation will continue to work tirelessly with our partners across the state to ensure that Maryland families can access these critical Unemployment Insurance benefits.”

“It is encouraging to hear that the many self-employed Marylanders who qualify for unemployment insurance under the CARES Act will now be able to more easily access the system and get the help they need,” said Representative Harris.

“Maryland’s unemployment insurance program is serving as a lifeline for thousands of families across our state facing economic hardship due to this public health crisis. We must ensure that this critical program works to get help to all those in need across our state – especially the additional $600 Congress has provided every week to every eligible unemployed worker,” said Congressman Brown. “I’ve heard directly from constituents their frustrations with system malfunctions or onerous wait times. I’m committed to working with Secretary Robinson and her team at the Maryland Department of Labor to resolve these issues to provide relief for Marylanders during these difficult times.” 

“I thank Secretary Robinson and her team for their strong efforts to help Marylanders seeking unemployment benefits. Tens of thousands of our people are newly out of work, experiencing a loss of business, or forced to accept reduced work hours during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Representative Raskin. “Like my colleagues, I have heard from countless frustrated constituents who have relayed difficulties in accessing these benefits, including overwhelmed phone lines, lack of timely response, and flaws in the initial online application portal.  I heard an excellent plan today for addressing these problems and moving to a one-stop online portal to simplify and streamline the process. I remain committed to doing everything I can to ensure our constituents can apply for and receive the unemployment benefits they desperately need during this crisis.”

“I’ve heard directly from hundreds of constituents that we need to do a better job at getting Marylanders the support they need to stay afloat during these tough times,” said Congressman Trone. “Addressing the significant increase in unemployment claims is a monumental task, and I’m appreciative of the work of the Maryland Department of Labor to get relief to Maryland workers and families. But we must continue to push to decrease wait times and get money straight to the pockets of Marylanders who need it most as soon as possible.”