ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Maryland’s State Senate held a virtual public hearing Tuesday to discuss the state’s unemployment system woes.

The hearing allowed the public, for the first time, to share their experiences applying for unemployment insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Over 1,100 Marylanders signed up — but only the first 270 were invited to testify. The remainder could submit video testimonies.

Savannah Conaty was among those who testify. She said she’s been unemployed for a little over eight and a half weeks, and hasn’t received any money from unemployment.

“I, amongst so many others, have had a horrible nightmare of this,” Conaty said.

Marylanders were so eager to testify, it caused the Senate to increase the allotted time for the hearing from two hours to nine.


Another resident also expressed his frustration.

“Like everybody else on here, I’ve contacted the governors office seven times,” he said. “And today, I got seven automated responses saying the exact same thing, thanking me for sending those emails, it’s absolutely upsetting.”

The Maryland Department of Labor said it’s paid 327,649 unemployment insurance claims during the coronavirus pandemic, but the state’s new beacon one-stop website wasn’t without its problems.

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Baltimore County Senator Johnny Ray Salling said there’s no doubt the system has its flaws.

“What do we need to do with this beacon site to get it taken care of?” he said.

Many people who took part in the virtual hearing said they’ve made hundreds of phone calls, had long wait times and never actually reached a live person.


“Marylanders deserve better and the buck stops with me,” Gov. Larry Hogan said at a recent press conference.

“Unfortunately, the apology doesn’t put food on the table for Marylanders who have not received the money that they deserve,” Senate President Bill Ferguson said.

Denita Wallace estimated that she’s called the Department of Labor thousands of times in the last two months.

“The one time I got through to the “cue” I had to hold on for three hours to speak with a person,” Wallace said. “She said the system was down and she couldn’t help me.”

Maryland Department of Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson issued a statement Tuesday, saying in part:

“We are focused on getting the job done. We will not be satisfied until every Marylander gets the relief they need and deserve.”

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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.

Rachel Menitoff