The extensive spike in unemployment resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly slowed down the processing of unemployment claims by the Maryland Division of Unemployment Insurance. In the early days of the pandemic, claimants could not get through to claim agents or were experienced extensive hold times. There were similar complaints around the agency’s website. High traffic caused the website to slow down or lock up.
Since that time, the state introduced its new BEACON online filing system. It takes a one-stop approach, allowing claimants to file one application online to apply to multiple federal and state unemployment programs. While the system was slow when first introduced on April 24, it eventually improved the claim processing time. The state has improved its backlog of claims and benefit payouts by hiring additional staff and improved infrastructure
The Maryland Department of Labor (DOL) is tasked with providing employment, job training, and regulatory programs to Maryland’s workforce and businesses. Through their Division of Unemployment Insurance (DUI), they administer the state’s unemployment compensation program. The DUI is responsible for processing unemployment compensation claims and paying out benefits. See below for details on the newly enhanced unemployment benefits available and how to file a claim.
The State of Maryland launched the updated BEACON 2.0 unemployment insurance system on September 20, 2020, for claimants and September 21, 2020, for employers. Claimants can do the same functions under the BEACON 2.0 system as they could under the original BEACON system, which provided one location for people to file unemployment claims with one application, submit weekly certifications, and manage their account. Under the BEACON 2.0 system, claimants receive immediate updates about their claim status, submit requested documents electronically, and respond to fact-finding requests.
When will I receive the additional $300 in Lost Wages Assistance?
The DUI began paying out the $300 per week LWA on September 11. These payments are retroactive to August 1 and will cover up to the maximum 6 weeks of approved funding. FEMA has stated that no additional funding will be available. To qualify for the $300 in federal benefits retroactive to the weeks ending August 1, 2020 through September 5, 2020, the federal program requires that claimants be eligible for a weekly benefit amount of at least $100.
Claimants will not need to file a separate application and will be notified of their eligibility for the LWA program in their BEACON portal and by e-mail. Upon logging into their BEACON portal, eligible claimants will be prompted to self-certify that they are unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions caused by COVID-19. Claimants may also use the mobile app to complete the self-certification.
After certifying that they have been unemployed or partially unemployed due to disruptions due to COVID-19, claimants will receive a lump sum payment retroactive to their earliest date of eligibility within the LWA program within 1-2 days. This payment may be on a different day than a claimant regularly receives benefits.
COVID 19 Enhanced Benefits in Maryland
Under the CARES act, there are three types of federal unemployment assistance available:
• Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): expands eligibility for traditionally ineligible individuals for unemployment benefits, including independent contractors, gig workers, and self-employed individuals. Recipients may receive up to 39 weeks of benefit payments under this program.
• Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC): adds $600 per week and the regular benefits recipients of Unemployment Insurance are entitled to receive; the benefit is retroactive to the week beginning March 29, 2020, and the program expired the week of July 25, 2020.
• Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): provides an additional 13 weeks of Unemployment benefits to regular unemployment insurance recipients.
If you have exhausted benefits paid through the regular unemployment and PEUC program, you may be entitled to receive unemployment benefits through the Extended Benefit (EB) program. If you are eligible for this program, the weekly benefit is equal to the amount received under the regular unemployment or PEUC program. The EB program covers an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits.
In addition to the above, you may be eligible for Lost Wage Assistance (LWA). If you are unemployed and have a weekly benefit payment of at least $100 and eligible for unemployment benefits, you may receive an additional $300 in assistance retroactive through August 1, 2020. You do not need to file a separate request; however, you will need to self-certify to confirm that you are unemployed or partially unemployed because of COVID-19.
This benefit is provided through FEMA and is scheduled to run for three weeks. The program may be extended if funding is available.
Web and/or phone issues with accessing the Maryland Unemployment system
The DUI experienced an unprecedented volume of unemployment insurance claims since mid-March. The DUI had limited staff and aging technology infrastructure. This resulted in significant phone delays and extensive time spent processing claims.
In April and September 2020, the DUI significantly updated its technology to streamline its application process and provide claimants with current information about their claims’ status. This has helped reduce the number of applications processed and incoming phone calls to check on claims’ status.
Initial Claims: If this is the first time you are filing an unemployment claim under any of the federal or state programs available, you must first file an initial unemployment insurance claim to determine your eligibility and which programs may apply. All federal and state unemployment programs are covered under this initial claim application.
Initial claims are filed through the DUI’s BEACON System here.
Within three days of filing your initial claim, you will receive a Determination of Monetary Eligibility. This form shows you the employer(s) included in your base period, how much you earned from them, and what your weekly benefit amount (WBA) is. This form also lets you know if you are ineligible for benefits.
If you believe the determination letter contains an error, contact a claims agent by calling (877) 293-4125.
Existing Claimants: Claimants receiving unemployment benefits due to the coronavirus pandemic must continue to certify every week to receive unemployment benefits under any state or federal program. This includes the additional FPUC $600/week benefit and the PUA program.
The extra $600/week compensation is retroactive to the week of April 4, 2020, through July 25, 2020. FPUC payments are automatically added to the weekly benefit payment.
Before April 24, 2020, claimants that exhausted their regular unemployment benefits will be notified by the DUI that they must reapply to receive PEUC benefits here. Claimants who were receiving unemployment benefits at this time will automatically receive PEUC payments when these expire.
Claimants that have exhausted both regular unemployment and PEUC benefits may be eligible for an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits under the Extended Benefits program. Eligible claimants will be notified by DUI and can apply through the BEACON system here.
You must file your initial unemployment claim through the DUI’s BEACON system here. You will need the following information to file your first claim.
- Social Security Number
- Personal mailing address and contact information
- Employment history for the past 18 months, including:
- Employers’ business names
- The physical address for each employer
- Telephone number
- First and the last date that you worked for each employer
- The reason you are no longer employed
- Alien Registration number and the date your work authorization expires if you are not a US citizen
- DD214 Member 4 if you were in the military
- Form SF-8 if you were a federal employee
- The name and local number of the union hall (if you are a member)
- Name, birthdate, and social security number for all dependents under 16 years old.
In addition to the above, you may be asked for additional documentation such as proof of your income, tax returns, travel restrictions, or correspondence from your employer that you cannot begin working or that the business was closed due to COVID-19.
For assistance with filing your claim or with the state’s new BEACON program, contact a claims agent (667) 207-6520. Phone assistance is available from Monday-Friday 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM; Saturday 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM; Sunday 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM.
To be eligible for Unemployment Insurance benefits in Maryland, you must meet the following eligibility requirements during the pandemic:
- Unemployed or had a reduction in hours due to no fault of your own
- Earned enough wages to be eligible for unemployment benefits
Filing Weekly Claims
You must file a weekly claim to prove that you are still eligible and qualify for unemployment benefits. You have up to 7 days immediately after the end of each week that you are unemployed to file this weekly claim. Weekly claims can be filed online or by phone at (877) 293-4125.
If you don’t file your weekly claim within the required time, your benefit payments may be delayed or denied. You must call the DUI for assistance.
Existing claimants that are eligible for regular unemployment log in here to file their weekly claims.
If there is a problem with your claim that should be resolved before benefits can be paid or you have appealed a denial in benefits, you must still file a weekly claim online or over the phone. If it is determined that you are eligible or if you win your appeal, you will be paid these benefits retroactively. However, if you win the appeal but have not claimed benefits, you will not be paid for these weeks.
I filed my unemployment claim several weeks ago. Will I receive back pay once my claim is approved?
Over the past few months, the DUI has streamlined its application, improved its claim processing time, and hired more live agents to address incoming phone calls. Even with these measures, there is still a backlog of claims in the process. If you are waiting to hear back about your claim, you will receive retroactive benefit payments up to the date that you were determined eligible as long as you filed your claims each week.
This also applies to the FPUC $600 per week additional benefit, which expired the week of June 25. If you have filed an unemployment claim before that date and are still awaiting a response regarding your eligibility for unemployment, you will be paid retroactive benefits for the back weeks of FPUC if you are eligible. This is the case even if the decision is not made until after the July 25 expiration date.
If you are not eligible for regular unemployment, you may collect benefits under the PUA program. To determine eligibility, you must file a new unemployment insurance claim if you have not already done so. Once your eligibility is determined, the DUI will notify you electronically about what steps you need to take to be paid PUA benefits. While you are waiting to hear back, you should continue to file weekly certifications. If you are eligible for PUA benefits for weeks that have already passed, you may recover back pay if you submitted weekly certifications.
Individuals who work reduced hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic may still be eligible to collect partial unemployment benefits if your gross earnings are less than the weekly benefit amount. You must continue to file your weekly certification and report any of your wages earned during the week. Wages earned may reduce your unemployment benefit.
See additional FAQ from the Maryland Division of Unemployment Insurance about unemployment benefits.