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Maryland sees first drop in new unemployment claims since start of coronavirus pandemic

BALTIMORE — The number of unemployment claims in Maryland was just over 61,000 for April 11 -- it's the first drop in new cases the state has seen since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Maryland Department of Labor Division of Unemployment Insurance reported on Thursday a total number of 61,770 new insurance claims for the week of April 11. That number was 108,508 the week before.

Since March 14, 296,842 people have lost jobs as recorded by first-time unemployment claims.

The three counties with the highest number of claims are Montgomery County with 9,548, Latest Baltimore News Baltimore County with 9,187 and Prince George's County with 7,768. Baltimore City had 6,150 new claims.

For perspective, the Labor Department said there was an average of 2,592 new unemployment claims per week in Maryland between Dec. 28, 2019, and March 7.

The Department of Labor said most Marylanders are getting their first benefit payments within three weeks in the form of debit cards loaded with all weekly benefits back to their date of eligibility.

Apply for unemployment insurance online here, or call 410-949-0022. Claims center call hours have been extended to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Starting this Saturday, claims centers will also be open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon.

Anyone with a last name that starts with A to F should file their claim on Monday
G to N should file on Tuesday
O to Z on Wednesday
On Thursdays and Fridays, anyone can file over the phone. On Thursdays through Sundays, anyone can file online.

NOTE: The governor's office said the Division of Unemployment Insurance's website and call center are experiencing an unprecedented volume of users due to the coronavirus.

The state launched on April 9 a new email address to answer specific questions about disputed claims:

More information: How to apply for unemployment insurance.

Yorel Williams is a laid-off medical laser technician whose unemployment benefits have run out. Williams has one simple request for the Department of Labor's website: "Update the information on what are we supposed to do rather than worrying and Press Release Distribution Service stressing on how we are going to continue to feed our families in this crisis."

Williams has also tried calling.

"My call log currently states that I have called over the past two and a half days 315 times. No results whatsoever," Williams said.

According to Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson, the Department of Labor is in the process of training additional workers to handle the surge.

The Department of Labor is hiring 100+ individuals to more than double staffing at the Unemployment Insurance Claim Centers throughout the state. Positions will be available in Baltimore City, College Park, Cumberland, Hagerstown, Salisbury, Towson and Waldorf. More information

The Department of Labor is also working on updating its systems to allow residents to get an extra $600 federal in weekly benefits through the end of July.

Starting Friday, everyone eligible for benefits ending the week of April 4 will begin receiving an additional $600 per week as part of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program on top of current regular benefits. Marylanders will begin to see the increase in their next regularly scheduled payment.

But Williams is not having any success and her household is struggling.

"We are struggling. I mean, we are down to the bare bones as far as our food is concerned," Williams said. "My daughter, who is employed at the casino, hasn't been to work since the city shut down. So she has no income. My husband is employed as a lawn technician. His work is running thin."

WBAL-TV 11 News has also heard from many self-employed Marylanders who said they were told they weren't eligible. The Department of Labor said their system isn't set up yet to process applications for people who are self-employed. They suggest self-employed Marylanders enter their email address on the department's website to get notified when the program is available.

Economists warn that recovery from the lockdown is going to take a long time.

Appearing NBC's "TODAY Show" Thursday morning, Gov. Larry Hogan said he's working on a plan to reopen the state for business, but it will be done safely.

"Everyone wants to get our economy back, get people back to work,v]\\ our small business open, but we also want to make sure we do it in a safe way," Hogan said.

Williams said even though she's hurting financially, she worries about lifting restricts too soon.

"We can't do that as long as this virus continues to spread, and I agree that social distancing is the best way to keep from spreading. I've been in the medical field for 20 years," Williams said.

According to the governor's press office, Hogan discussed reopening the state with his cabinet and local leaders, and he had an afternoon phone call with the president on loosening restrictions.

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