BALTIMORE (FOX 5 DC) - “Hogan: Fix the unemployment system” was the message displayed by protesters in front of the Department of Labor in Baltimore Wednesday.
That call is coming from all corners of the state as thousands continue to wait for unemployment benefits. It’s also coming from the state’s congressional delegation who are continuing to put pressure on Gov. Larry Hogan to take action needed to get people paid.
“Right now, it’s clear the service level is unacceptable,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland).
Cardin, along with Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) and every representative from Maryland in the House, sent a letter to Hogan calling on him to fix the system.
“We don’t see this as a partisan issue, quite frankly, we want to work together state and the federal government to make sure those who need benefits can get benefits in a timely way,” Cardin said.
He said members of Congress have been “in the dark” and need better information.
"This is a lifeline. They need the money now,” he said of those waiting.
As of last week, the backlog of people waiting for benefits was over 70,000. New numbers are expected from the labor department on Thursday.
Nearly three weeks ago, Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson told FOX 5 that she hoped “in a matter of days” she could make an announcement that every claim from March and before had been resolved.
That announcement still hasn’t come. A spokeswoman for the department said Wednesday that “a large number of issues regarding March claims were resolved and addressed,” but FOX 5 continues to hear from people who have been waiting since March for benefits.
Hogan has refused an interview with FOX 5’s Lindsay Watts for the last six weeks. Instead of responding to the interview request, Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci said to email a list of viewers waiting for benefits.
Dozens of lists are coming in from state lawmakers offices as well as congressional offices. Spokeswomen for Cardin and Van Hollen say both offices have heard from about 1,000 people reaching out for help. It raises the question: doesn’t the labor department know who needs help?
“I couldn’t agree with you more. It shouldn’t be necessary for a United States senator to inquire as to the status of a particular claimant,” said Cardin. “Claimants should be able to get clear information from the department of labor.”