BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s been more than a year since the pandemic forced businesses to close and thousands became unemployed.

Just last week, more than 11,600 people filed for unemployment in our state, which is slightly up from the previous week. But thousands still haven’t seen any money and have been living for months without unemployment checks. They want to know why.

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“I can’t sleep, you know. It’s not easy,” said Rasika Ruwanpathirana, an unemployed warehouse worker.

Outside the Maryland Department of Labor building Friday, many unemployed workers made their frustrations known.

“It’s been eight weeks now that I haven’t received a check from unemployment,” said Stephen Ceci, an unemployed hospitality worker.

Ceci said his account has been frozen and getting answers seems impossible.

“The stress level is pretty rough. You get anxiety attacks. You’re constantly worrying. Your sleep is messed up,” he said.

Members of the People’s Power Assembly say the backlog of cases waiting is getting worse and there’s no way to check the status of a claim or get answers.

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“Immediately something needs to be done. There has to be a point enough is enough – it’s life or death,” said Joyce Butler of the People’s Power Assembly.

A union representative for state employees with the Department of Labor says workers are overworked and overwhelmed.

“The workers want to get these people the unemployment benefits,” said Andrew Mayton, union representative. “Under these new systems and guidelines, they can not do their job as fast as they used to.”

Gov. Larry Hogan said the state has been working hard to get people their money.

“I think its the best in the country. We’ve done 98% of all of our claims,” he said.

Still, many unemployed workers haven’t received a dime in months. And the pressure is overbearing.

“I can’t keep up with it. I’m at the edge of everything falling apart,” Ruwanpathirana said.

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The People’s Power Assembly says they plan on holding another rally on May 22.

Kelsey Kushner