MD Jobless Rates Soar, How Big Stimulus Checks Will Be

Deb Belt

This article originally appeared on the Annapolis Patch

MARYLAND — Federal aid payments have been approved by Congressional leaders, along with larger unemployment checks, just as Maryland jobless claims have soared in the wake of business shutdowns to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

Non-essential businesses have been shut and schools have closed as Maryland deals with 580 confirmed cases of the respiratory disease and four people have died. Read more: MD Governor Orders Nonessential Businesses To Close

Some businesses, including delivery services, grocery stores, and Amazon warehouses, now need more workers. Read more: Companies Hiring In Bel Air Amid Coronavirus; Safeway Is Hiring In Montgomery County During Coronavirus Crisis

A $175 million relief package to assist workers, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations affected by the ordered closure of all non-essential businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic has been proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan. Read more: $175M Aid Package Would Help Workers, Businesses: MD Coronavirus; MD Firms Can Apply For Small Business Disaster Loans: Coronavirus

The number of unemployment insurance claims in Maryland for the week of March 21 jumped with more than 38,000 new claims filed. The Maryland Department of Labor Division of Unemployment Insurance said a total of 42,334 insurance claims were submitted last week. That's up from 3,852 claims filed for the week of March 14.

Baltimore County had the most unemployment claims filed with 7,763; Baltimore City was next with 5,392 claims; and Anne Arundel County was third with 4,517 filings, the state agency said.

"In just one week, our team at @MD_Labor received over 42,000 new unemployment insurance claims," the Maryland Department of Labor tweeted Thursday. "This is truly unprecedented. As many customers face longer wait times than usual and have difficulty accessing our website, we ask for your patience and understanding."

Labor officials urged all eligible Marylanders to file their unemployment claim online at http://mdunemployment.com. The online application is available 24/7 and claimants should file early in the morning or late in the evening for faster speeds.

"The website is up and running, but it was down for a short period of time," Sen. Ben Cardin said Thursday during a media call about financial relief coming to Marylanders due to the coronavirus pandemic. He acknowledged there were times the Maryland unemployment website had crashed, noting it was "flooded with inquiries," as were congressional offices.

"System capacity is going to be a big challenge, and we’re going to have to work through it to be sure the benefits of these programs are realized," Sen. Chris Van Hollen said, encouraging people that elected officials were working to "streamline these processes."

During the state of emergency, the Division of Unemployment Insurance's call center hours have been extended to 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. To contact a Claim Center, call 410-949-0022.

Residents are asked to use the NetClaims application to file a claim online.

People filing a claim can e-mail questions to ui.inquiry@maryland.gov and employers can e-mail questions to dluiemployerassistance-labor@maryland.gov. Claims may only be filed by phone or online; claims cannot be filed by e-mail.

Late Wednesday the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a historic $2 trillion aid package. You can read the 880-page bill here. The bill now goes to the House, which is expected to vote Friday, before heading to President Trump's desk. He has promised to immediately sign it.

Lawmakers are desperate to get cash in the hands of Americans and support businesses devastated by the shutdowns in place to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.

For updates on the coronavirus in Maryland, get Patch news alerts.

Here's how the package might affect you:

How much money are Americans getting?
Most workers who earned up to $75,000 will get $1,200, plus $500 per child, and joint filers who made up to $150,000 will get $2,400, plus $500 per child. Payments will be gradually less for workers who made more than $75,000 ($150,000 for joint filers) and stop altogether at $99,000 ($198,000 for joint filers.) The information will be taken from your 2019 or, if unavailable, 2018 tax returns.

You can find out how much you may be getting here.

When can Americans expect to see the money?
The White House has made it clear it wants the money to go out as soon as possible. Officials are eyeing April 6, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Wednesday many people would have their money within three weeks of Trump signing the bill into law. April 6 is less than two weeks away.

How are payments being dispersed?
The Internal Revenue Service will use your 2019, of if unavailable, 2018 return to get your direct deposit information. If that is unavailable, they will send a check to the mailing address on the return they are using.

What about unemployment?
There will be 13 weeks of unemployment payments added to whatever each state offers, as well as $600 a week for four months on top of whatever each state pays.

Health insurance enrollment is open now.

Many Marylanders who have been laid off also lost their employer-provided health insurance.

Maryland Health Connection’s emergency special enrollment period for uninsured residents is open through April 15. If you never had health insurance or lost your health insurance, this is your chance to get covered for 2020.

The online application is available daily at www.marylandhealthconnection.gov from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., or call 855-642-8572 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. to apply by phone.

The state's health education and advocacy unit can help consumers who have enrollment disputes involving qualified health plans. Visit www.marylandcares.org for free help with an enrollment dispute.

Latest coronavirus coverage

—Includes reporting by Patch Editors Tom Davis and Mike Caraggi