June 24, 2020

Important Updates from the COVID-19 Legislative Work Group: June 24, 2020

Maryland’s Joint COVID-19 Response Legislative Work Group gave a briefing on June 24, 2020 including updates Maryland Department of Labor Secretaries Robinson and Schulz. Find key takeaways below.

Secretary Tiffany Robinson,
Maryland Department of Labor
  • So far we have paid out over $2.7 billion in benefits.
  • We have received almost 540,000 complete claims.
  • We have processed over 502,000 claims.
  • 405,608 claimants have received payment.
  • Over 97,000 claims have been denied for not meeting requirements.
  • Pending we have about 34,000 claims.

Q&A

 Senate President Bill Ferguson: If an employee has concerns about safety or related issues is there any recourse there or is that something between the employee and employer?

Tiffany Robinson: Our federal guidance tells us that an employee may refuse to return to work for a good cause. The department is required to speak to both the employer and employee.

Delegate Dereck Davis: Where are you all today as it relates to the processing of applications? What date are you on?

Tiffany Robinson: I may have to get back to you with a more specific answer. With the implementation of a more automated solution sometimes we put the solution in place and run it in a program. Then we get the information back as to which and how many claimants it affected.

Delegate Dereck Davis: Through the CARES Act there was an additional $600 allocated, this runs out at the end of July. Has anything been done to make the claimants aware that they will be losing part of what they had been receiving?

Tiffany Robinson: All the deadlines are readily made available on the website to any claimant.

Senator Jim Rosapepe: Has your administration put together a series of recommendations to Congress that when they act to clear out the underbrush of the excessive overregulation of unemployment benefits?

Tiffany Robinson: We certainly have been in communication with our federal partners, I am on a call every week with labor department directors across the country. While I do believe the federal government has been trying to help us along the way, they certainly have not made it easy for us.

Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk: Does your staff have a script where they do a bit of a check to the claimant asking how they are doing or do they need a referral to the crisis center?

Tiffany Robinson: We not only have a script but we also have a training for all of our employees. We also have talks with our claimants that are in dire situations. We immediately follow up with capitol police, state police and local government police to ensure those claimants get the well visits as quickly as possible.

Delegate Eric Luedkte: In other states that have also been dealing with the same inundation of applications have started going ahead and sending people checks and if necessary pull back the money later. Given the delays that we have seen that might be a way to help some of the people that have been waiting and struggling. Why have we not taken that approach?

Tiffany Robinson: We are aware that some states did that. Many of the states that have entered into that type of practice, paying immediately upon filing of a claim, are the states that ended up with hundreds of millions of dollars paid out in fraudulent claims. We have been encouraged not to do that by our federal partners. Instead we have created multiple automated solutions for different categories of claims.

Senator Delores Kelley: I am hearing from my constituents that a lot of people are being evicted. What can you do to keep your eye on the needs of workers and their families?

Tiffany Robinson: Our customers come first and we are also very concerned for their wellbeing which is why we have done everything in our power over the past three months to operate in a new and different way. I do believe the Governor’s executive order of evictions during a state of an emergency is still in place.

Senator Clarence Lam: There are states like Vermont that provided checks to individuals who are still in limbo and have not had their benefits paid out yet. We have been reaching out to individuals at the Department of Labor And have been bounced around with different answers. Can you speak more to that? There are constituents at risk of suicide, can you give us the figure of how many of those individuals have contacted the Department of Labor? How many individuals have you had to follow up on?

Tiffany Robinson: In terms of the communications with your offices and pending cases, I would remind you that some of the cases that we report as pending are different from some of the inquiries that come in ongoing on claims that may either be paid or payment has stopped for some other reason. Off the top of my head I do not have numbers for those that we have followed up with. This is a huge concern for us, I do not believe it’s been a very large number that we have had to send out but I can follow up and get back to you on that.

Secretary Kelly Schulz,
Maryland Department of Commerce
  • To date we have approved grant applications of almost 5100 businesses totaling $49.9 million dollars.
  • All of the grant agreements have gone out to the applicants that are going to get the funding.
  • Almost 3500 businesses have received their grant applications.
  • We are sending out 400 loan agreements per day.
  • We have identified 1,629 loan applications that total just under the $75 million that have been put into the fund.
  • Checks are actively being distributed.
  • Manufacturing grant – We have approved 52 applications for businesses across the state.

Q&A 

Delegate Maggie McIntosh: When and if will we get a list of who the grant and loan recipients are? Is there a percentage of grants that have been completed?

Kelly Schulz: We will be happy to supply a list when everything is complete. There are $34 million worth of grant checks in the mail.

Senate President Bill Ferguson: Of that $34 million, does the department have the information available for zip code, size of company, and industry base? Is that something that can be provided?

Kelly Schulz: We have not, and we have had this conversation with individuals in the past. The applications that were sent out were not sent out with very descriptive type of check boxes to identify them, other than that the size had to be between 2-50 employees. We did separate the jurisdiction for the remaining of the unfunded applications so we could send them out specifically to individual counties that were putting together their local relief programs.

Delegate Eric Luedkte: We passed legislation this year to track minority and women owned business recipients of various tax credits. Has that information been tracked regarding these loans and grants? We’ve been hearing increasing concerns about the ability of renters to make their payments, and increasing concerns from the real estate industry that is worried about the economic impacts of people not being able to make their payments. Has the department been involved in conversations about an increased rental assistance program?

Kelly Schulz: We do have on our applications a spot to self-identify if someone was a minority business. As you know it is not a required field for people to fill that out so we will have some data. I do know that housing assistance is more relevant for the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Senator Melony Griffith: Are you tracking data in terms of jurisdictions?

Kelly Schulz: In the beginning we started a very aggressive outreach. We will track, and we will be able to identify those businesses who have self-identified themselves as minority businesses but we do not have that full data at this point in time.

Senator Delores Kelley: In the limited time that you had to get the information out, do you have a list of minority businesses or trade organizations that cut across various demographic sectors?

Kelly Schulz: Last year we hired a minority business liaison. We did this to ensure we have somebody to handle our regulatory and statutory requirements, also we wanted to ensure we have that direct line of communication with the minority business sectors across the state. She helped lead one of our industry advisory groups for the recovery and reopening.

Delegate Mike Jackson: Could you work with us and gather those numbers at the completion of the process to let us know which businesses fell under which category?

Kelly Schulz: Absolutely. I have 100% confidence that we can get you some type of information that we have been able to gather.

If you have any questions or concerns explore our COVID-19 resource page, or reach out to us directly at (410) 337-0500.

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