BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Gov. Larry Hogan’s office addressed frustrated Marylanders trying to file for unemployment as thousands have been left temporarily or permanently without jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing measures.

Mike Ricci, Hogan’s communications director, said the state took more claims in March than in all of 2019. To alleviate some of the frustrations, Ricci tweeted out some information for those filing for unemployment to note.

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He said the state has extended claim center call hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and call center employees are “working around the clock” to file claims.

Ricci also said they have added a dedicated email address for people to send in their questions and concerns without having to wait on hold. The email is ui.inquiry@maryland.gov.

“We have approximately 1,000 calls coming through in every two-hour period of time. Calls do end up getting dropped because the system can only handle so many calls at once,” Ricci said in a tweet.

Nearly 85,000 Marylanders filed for unemployment in the week ending on March 27, with more than 13,000 claims in Baltimore County.

In the last month, the state has cracked down on the operation of non-essential businesses, leading to layoffs and furloughs during these closures There were 42,334 claims for the week ending on March 21, up almost 1,000 percent from the week before when 3,852 claims were filed.

There’s also a new way to file for unemployment in Maryland, after the system was inundated with calls and emails over the last few weeks.

Ricci assured residents that no one will lose benefits or be penalized because of missing a deadline for weekly certification, and they’ll be sending messages to those claimants with instructions on how to fix this issue and file their certifications for previous weeks.

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The U.S. Department of Labor sent the state guidance for implementing the CARES Act which includes new eligibility for independent contractors and self-employed Marylanders.

“One piece of the CARES Act implementation is getting the $600 plus-up payment out to current and new claimants quickly. We hope to have an update on this soon as well,” he said.

Ricci added they’ve added a button on their website for people to submit their email addresses so they can keep them up to date when the system is up and running.

The federal administration has added a server to the SSN validation portal, which Ricci said is an improvement, and he reminded residents they are still trying to train more state employees to take claims, and that they can’t be trained remotely, and are trying to get 10 people in to train at a time.

Also understand that it takes approximately 25-30 minutes to file one claim, and longer than that — if it’s a combined wage claim in multiple states or there is some other complication,” Ricci said. 

It takes 21 days total to process claims and then get the first benefit payment out, he said, which includes all payments from the date of eligibility, he added.

Check out their unemployment insurance information page here.

If you’re still not sure exactly how to file for unemployment, you can check out WJZ’s step-by-step instructions here.

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For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.