BALTIMORE (WJZ) — “It’s just been very challenging to take a step forward every single day when it feels as if the state does not care about its own people, as if the state doesn’t care about the suffering it’s inflicting upon Marylanders,” said Turrel David at a rally for the unemployed Thursday in Baltimore City.

For months, David waited for his unemployment benefits but he never got a dime and didn’t know why. Then, he found out his claim was considered fraudulent.
“I’m not a fraud, right,” David asked the crowd at Thursday’s rally. “I’m doing the best I can to get back on my feet.”
But he’s now one of nearly 1.5 million flagged claims the Department of Labor said have been flagged.
“Of those claims that were flagged, we determined that 92 percent of 1.2 million were fraudulent,” said David McGlone, Deputy Secretary for the Maryland Dpt. of Labor during a meeting on pandemic spending Thursday.
The meeting was hosted by State Comptroller, Peter Franchot, who grilled officials with the Department of Labor about fraud, unpaid benefits and their customer service.
“I’m concerned that the Department seems to struggle to answer the phones and emails even now in a timely manner,” said Franchot.
“Once they’re in the queue, it’s gotten down to four minutes,” replied McGlone, who said they’ve hired more staffers in their call center but still have a limited number of agents.
“If we get a half a million calls in a week, not everybody is getting into the queue,” he added.
“I call them fifteen times a day,” said William Gibson at Thursday’s rally, “and nothing.”
Making things even more frustrating, Franchot said almost $2 billion in benefits ended up in the hands of criminals.
“There’s been an enormous assault on the public treasuries by fraudsters in this area and we just need to learn the facts so we’re more prepared next time, God forbid, if it ever happens again,” Franchot said.
McGlone said the Department of Labor has processed over 97% of legitimate claims and paid over $13 billion in benefits.

Annie Rose Ramos