ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Marylanders could see delays in receiving unemployment benefits after they lapsed due to President Donald Trump’s hesitation to sign an economic relief package.

Congress passed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill before Christmas, but the president didn’t sign it into law until Sunday. He argued the stimulus checks sent directly to Americans should be larger than the $600 provided for in the bill.

On December 26, the day before Trump signed the bill, unemployment benefits lapsed for an estimated 12 million Americans, CBS News reported.

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While the U.S. Department of Labor said there will not be any lapse in benefits, Maryland’s labor department said it can’t move forward without more instructions from Washington. In a statement Tuesday, Maryland Department of Labor spokesperson Fallon Pearre said that while the bill has now been signed into law, the state is still waiting on guidance about how to implement it:

“The federal COVID-19 relief package that extends and provides additional federal unemployment benefits was signed into law. Labor is currently reviewing the legislation and awaiting guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor on how the CARES Act program extensions should be implemented in Maryland. States cannot move forward without this guidance and it is unlikely the guidance will be issued before the end of the month.

“Once received, Maryland will modify the BEACON system and implement the extensions as quickly as possible to bring much-needed relief to eligible claimants. The department will send an email directly to all claimants with detailed instructions as soon as more information is available. I will also update you as soon as we have more information.”

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) blamed the president’s delay in signing the bill for causing some of the confusion.

“People are in desperate need of these checks, and there should be no reason why there is a delay in the determinations of getting these checks,” he said.

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Among those all too familiar with the headaches of the unemployment filing process is Andrew Bruchey, the owner of The Parisian Flea in Baltimore’s Hampden neighborhood.

“No American should have to beg for resources,” he said.

Bruchey relied on unemployment for six months when he had to close his business at the beginning of the pandemic.

“Every day, every other hour, you’re checking to see if there’s some relief coming your way yet… and there’s none,” he said.

Bruchey isn’t alone with his frustrations with elected officials.

“It’s frustrating and it’s confusing,” Fong Moy said, “when we don’t have any solid information about what is going to happen or how it’s going to happen.”

“I’m crossing my fingers that there will be hope in the new year and that we start seeing some real leadership,” Emily Butler said.

Data from the state’s labor department for the week ending December 19, the last week for which data is available, showed 17,724 new unemployment claims during that week.

Once more information is available, the department said it will update its online BEACON system and send claimants an email with detailed instructions.

This story was first published on December 29, 2020.

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