Maryland unemployment office struggling with high demand, low staff levels

The backlog of people waiting for unemployment benefits in Maryland is over 135,000, and currently, there are just 200 phone lines for people to connect with the labor department.

During a hearing with lawmakers on the Economic Matters Committee, Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson admitted she does not have enough staff to meet demand.

Prince George’s County Del. Dereck Davis chairs the committee and he asked Robinson about an email FOX 5 reported on where a labor department supervisor told a woman he had 1,000 emails and couldn’t help her.

“I can only attribute that type of meltdown to people being overwhelmed,” Davis said.

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“Well, I will say chairman that I will apologize,” Robinson responded.

Chanell Gaines, the woman who received the email, is speaking for the first time. She says she finally got a call from the labor department and expects to finally get her benefits after nearly two months of trying.

“I think your assistance and your coverage of the story has helped significantly,” Gaines said. “A lot of people on the Facebook page have been getting answers over the last day and a half, return emails, phone calls.”

RELATED: Maryland Dept. of Labor worker tells unemployed woman he’s swamped, can’t help her

At a separate hearing Tuesday, lawmakers heard hours of testimony from people who have been waiting weeks for benefits.

“I have literally no money right now,” one woman said. “I’m about to lose everything.”

Robinson told lawmakers her staff is working hard and many are emotionally invested in helping people. She conceded she does not have enough staff and said she is working to increase phone lines and bring 75 more staffers on board. She said 200 employees have already been added.


After Robinson had left the virtual hearing, lawmakers continued to talk, with some expressing frustrations that no timeline was given for when problems will be fixed.

Lawmakers are submitting spreadsheets to the labor department with constituents who need help. Robinson said so far her staff has connected with 800 people on those lists.