Secretaries of Labor and Commerce Brief Joint COVID-19 Workgroup

2020-06-25 23_48_34-June 24, 2020 Meeting of the Joint COVID-19 Legislative Workgroup - YouTubeThe Secretaries provide updates on state unemployment insurance programs and business recovery programs. 

The workgroup was joined by the Department of Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson and Department of Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz.

Secretary Robinson discussed how the Department has increased staff, added new technology, and worked to improve communication while operating during the pandemic. By the numbers as of Wednesday, the Department has paid out a historic amount of benefits — $2.7 billion in both regular and CARES Act benefits.  It has also received 540,000 complete claims. Of those claims 93% have been processed, 75% have received payment, 18% denied, and 34,000 or 6.5% of claims are still pending as the state works to cut the backlog.

Maryland Matters reports on the reason provided for why the state has not given expedited benefits as some other states have. The article notes this is an issue that has been raised by Delegate Vaughn Stewart recently:

During a briefing for the legislature’s COVID-19 Workgroup Wednesday, Labor Secretary Tiffany P. Robinson rebuffed suggestions that Maryland copy a Vermont program that gives $1,200 payments to people whose benefits claims aren’t resolved within two weeks of being filed.

Robinson told legislators that “five or six” states that rushed payments out the door ended up getting burned — including Washington.

Secretary Schulz updated the workgroup on business relief programs and economic initiatives. Under the $50 million business relief grant program 5,100 businesses have been approved for up to $10k in relief and totaling $49.9 million in grant relief. Under the $75 million business relief loan program, the Department procured a new system where they are now able to send out 400 loan agreements per day. The Department has identified 1,629 applications eligible for support for up to $50,000.

The Joint COVID-19 Response Legislative Work Group is co-chaired by President Ferguson and Speaker Jones and includes 22 House and Senate members. Their charge is to monitor the effects COVID-19 in Maryland and to support the Governor and Department of Health and advise the General Assembly on any actions they should be taking.

The meeting was streamed live and a recording may be found on YouTube.

For more information:

Labor Secy. Rejects Call for Vermont-Style Quick Payments to Workers Waiting on Unemployment Benefits (Maryland Matters)

Prior coverage from Conduit Street:

State Health Officials Brief COVID-19 Legislative Workgroup

County Health Officers Brief Joint COVID-19 Workgroup