Montgomery Co. Unemployment Claims Surge Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Alessia Grunberger

This article originally appeared on the Gaithersburg Patch

GAITHERSBURG, MD — More than 42,000 Marylanders applied for jobless benefits last week, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday, as businesses shut their doors to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

The number of unemployment insurance claims in the state jumped from 2,090 at the beginning of March to 42,334 as of Thursday. The labor department says the number of claims the unemployment office received has created a backlog and longer wait times for customers who want to file for unemployment benefits.

Montgomery County has also seen a stunning spike in jobless claims. As of Thursday, 3,941 county residents have filed claims.

A week earlier, there were 256 claims. That's up from 195 claims filed for the week of March 7.

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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.

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 Donald Trump's desk. He has promised to immediately sign it.

Local leaders are also trying to get cash in the hands of residents business owners devastated by the shutdowns.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) announced that he was considering a $25 million emergency economic assistance fund in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Through this fund, $20 million would go to struggling small businesses, nonprofits, and county residents and $5 million would help cover residents' food, housing, and childcare costs.

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