ANNAPOLIS, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - For more than two months now, FOX 5 has been working to get answers about failures in Maryland to get people their unemployment benefits.
We’re still working because thousands are still waiting and Governor Larry Hogan continues to refuse our interview requests after seven weeks.
Hogan’s spokeswoman says they’ve been turning down local reporters, many who want to talk about unemployment problems, but still doing national press.
Hogan has done multiple appearances on national news shows and interviewed with Rolling Stone, who dubbed him “America’s most popular governor.” Hogan’s office says the last time he spoke to a local outlet about unemployment issues was a Baltimore radio station over three weeks ago.
“I think that’s not fair because he needs to do local,” said Devona Givens, who lives in Prince George’s County and has been trying for months to collect unemployment benefits. “We are local, we are Maryland. You know, we’re not on CNN we’re on channel 5.”
Givens said she is eligible for benefits and shared a screengrab showing as much from the state’s BEACON unemployment site.
“They sent me the letter to let me know how much I was going to get, but I never got a payment card or any payment,” said Givens.
In Baltimore County, Joe Tracey said he’s in danger of losing his home. He said he’s had no income since March.
“My 85-year-old mother lives with me,” said Tracey. “So it’s become a situation where we could actually become homeless. And she has a heart condition-this is a lot of stress on her.
She told me this morning as I was getting the mail, ‘I hope I don’t have to live through another week of this.’”
Tracey said he got a call from the unemployment office eight weeks ago saying he was eligible for benefits after the car dealership where he worked closed due to COVID-19.
“Every week I think this is going to be the week, this is the Wednesday I’m going to get paid,” he said. “But that never happens.”
The labor department has made major progress on the backlog which was 70,000 people deep two weeks ago and under 35,000 last week. New numbers will be released Thursday.
But FOX 5 continues to hear from dozens of people still waiting for help. Last week, FOX 5’s Lindsay Watts submitted a list of viewers names to the governor’s office and labor department. Since then, some have successfully received benefits, but others, like Tracey and Givens, have not.
Hogan has responded to questions on unemployment at press conferences about reopening Maryland.
When asked about the backlog on June 10, Hogan said in part: “The remaining people, unfortunately, many of them do not qualify, are not going to qualify.”
On Wednesday, Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson told lawmakers about 18% of people have not qualified thus far.
Many of the people who have contacted FOX 5 have either been approved for benefits or have gone on to collect benefits.
Robinson also said over 500,000 claims have been processed and more than $2.7 billion in unemployment benefits have been paid out.
Over the last few months, the governor has held 30 press conferences for local media, and he has addressed this topic in particular at several of them. He did give an interview to FOX 5 just hours before the state had its first cases of COVID-19 and did his first virtual town hall of the crisis with the network as well.