Here’s what’s going on with Maryland’s unemployment system after a change left many unable to submit weekly claims
When hundreds of unemployed Marylanders logged on to the state’s online benefits portal early Sunday morning, many were met with a confusing sight.
The option to send in their weekly claim certification — a requirement for receiving benefits — was missing.
Throughout the morning, anxious comments started to fill Facebook and Reddit groups populated by the state’s unemployed. Could this mean delayed aid, which families were relying on for phone bills, utilities and rent?
Here’s what we know about the situation so far.
The state Department of Labor requires claimants to fill out a weekly unemployment questionnaire between Sunday at 12:01 a.m. and Friday at 5 p.m., according to its website. Failing to do so can result in late payments or the end of aid.
But on Sunday, many reported that the button to access the questionnaire was missing on the state’s unemployment portal, BEACON 2.0.
Around 2 p.m., the state Department of Labor wrote in a tweet that those who were unable to file their claim certificate should check to see if they had an “Apply for Benefits” button under the portal’s options panel.
Everyone with an account that featured that button — even those that were still active and had a balance — would have to reapply for unemployment in BEACON to file their weekly claim. The function does not work on the BEACON mobile app, so claimants must either open a browser window on their phones or use a computer.
“The federal unemployment insurance programs have not ended and there are no issues with the BEACON system,” the department wrote in its tweet. “Many claimants are exhausting their benefits and need to reapply per program requirements.”
The announcement came out of left field for many unemployed residents, who hadn’t previously received communication about reapplying.
Why would someone have to reapply for benefits?
In a statement on its website, the department said reapplication might be necessary if a person did not file a weekly claim last week, if the person has been receiving benefits for 52 weeks or if the person’s “monetary eligibility needs to be redetermined.”
State labor officials clarified Monday that the issue is mostly affecting claimants who have to reapply for unemployment benefits on the state’s claims portal, BEACON 2.0, after one year in the system.
Claimants will have until the end of the day Saturday to file this week’s certification, according to the Department of Labor website.
But some who said they applied for unemployment less than a year ago and have continued to file weekly were affected, too. Some people who followed the state’s instructions to reapply said they saw glitches with their accounts.
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“There are no issues with the BEACON system,” state Department of Labor spokeswoman Fallon Pearre said in a statement to The Baltimore Sun on Monday. “Many claimants have already successfully filed their weekly claim certifications. The number of certifications filed continues to increase every hour.”
Pearre did not answer questions about whether anything had changed with the system recently that might have caused the eligibility changes.
How to contact the Department of Labor
For help with your benefits, you can access the department’s live chat or call 667-207-6520, although both tend to experience high volumes of inquiries.
For many unemployed Marylanders, dealing with the state’s unemployment system has been incredibly fraught. Plenty waited months for aid after losing their jobs to the pandemic, and fought through immense crowds to reach helpers from the state.
Meanwhile, Maryland is terminating pandemic unemployment programs funded by the federal government July 3. These programs weren’t scheduled to end until September under the American Rescue Plan. Last week, Maryland became the 24th state to end the programs early.
For some workers, including the formerly self-employed and one-time gig workers, this is their last month of aid. The state is also cutting off $300 weekly payments to the unemployed from the federal government and reinstating a requirement that the unemployed complete three job-searching activities a week.
Division of Unemployment Insurance
Transition to Direct Deposit/Paper Check Benefit Payments
Note: The deadline for claimants to use their debit cards is extended to Tuesday, February 1, 2022. To access funds after February 1, 2022, claimants should call the Bank of America Service Center at 855-847-2029.
OverviewMaryland Department of Labor’s Division of Unemployment Insurance (DUI) transitioned from issuing benefit payments to unemployment insurance claimants via debit card through Bank America to direct deposit (or paper check) through Wells Fargo. The department is excited to provide claimants with the ability to have their unemployment insurance benefit payments transferred directly into their personal bank account through the fast, safe, and convenient direct deposit program. Claimants are strongly encouraged to enroll in direct deposit if they have a checking or savings account and their financial institution is able to receive direct deposits.
TransitionTimelinePlease pay close attention to the following timeline:
- May 24, 2021
- Beginning Monday, May 24, 2021, all unemployment insurance benefit payments will be made by either direct deposit or paper check to eligible claimants who have made their selection in BEACON.
- January 5, 2022
- If claimants have been issued a Bank of America UI Benefits Debit Card and cannot locate that card, they must contact the Bank of America Customer Service Center at 855-847-2029 to order a replacement by Wednesday, January 5, 2022. Replacement cards will not be issued after this date.
- February 1, 2022
- On Tuesday, February 1, 2022, Bank of America UI debit cards will be deactivated. If claimants have a balance on their debit cards after that date, they can contact the Bank of America Service Center at 855-847-2029 to access those funds in a different way.
Instructions for Selecting Preferred Payment MethodTo select your preferred payment method in your BEACON portal, please follow these steps:
- Sign into your BEACON 2.0 claimant portal or mobile app. A pop-up window should appear that notifies you of the requirement to choose a payment method.
- You can click on “Update Payment Method” or “Postpone.” Selecting “Postpone” allows you to update this information at a later time. If you postpone selecting your payment method, the pop-up window will appear every time you log into your BEACON portal.
- You will be presented with two options on the pop-up window, which include “Pay My Benefits Via Direct Deposit” and “Pay My Benefits Via Check.”
- If you select “Pay My Benefits Via Direct Deposit” you will be prompted to provide your bank account information, including the account type, bank name, routing number, and account number. For detailed instructions and additional information, please visit the Direct Deposit of Benefit Payments FAQs.
- If you select “Pay My Benefits Via Check” you will be asked to confirm your mailing address. You must do so even if your mailing address has not changed. For detailed instructions and information about paper checks, please visit the Direct Deposit of Benefit Payments FAQs.
Timing of Direct Deposit Payments:
If you have successfully signed up for direct deposit, the timing of your payment will depend on both when you filed your weekly certification and the amount of time it takes your banking institution to process the payment.
If you file your weekly claim certification and are determined to be eligible for benefits, your funds will be sent for processing the next business day (this may vary depending on holidays and weekends). Please note that while your funds are quickly processed by the Division, the time it takes for your funds to be available in your bank account will depend on your particular banking institution.
Timing of Paper Check Payments:If you requested benefit payment via paper check, the receipt of your payment will depend on when you filed your weekly certification. If you are determined to be eligible for benefits, paper checks are processed on the next business day and will be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. Once the check has been mailed, the Division cannot provide updates on its location or the status of its delivery.
Don’t Have a Bank or Credit Union Account?If you do not have an account with a financial institution, but would like to select direct deposit as your payment method, consider opening a bank or credit union account now. There are many options in Maryland. To learn more general information about bank and credit union accounts, read the Office of the Commissioner of Financial Regulation’s Frequently Asked Questions. To learn about some of the many bank account options available for Marylanders, visit the CASH Campaignof Maryland’s Bank On Maryland program. You may also contact a financial institution of your choice. Please note it is a consumer’s responsibility to thoroughly research and review any information provided by any of these entities before opening an account.
Questions?If you have questions about the department’s transition from issuing benefit payments to claimants via debit card through Bank of America to direct deposit (or paper check) through Wells Fargo, please read our Direct Deposit of Benefit Payments Frequently Asked Questions.
Official Site of The State of New Jersey
INFORMATION FOR JOBSEEKERS: Visit CareerServices.nj.gov to learn more about the resources and trainings that are available to get you started on your next career opportunity. This includes access to more than 5,000 free online courses, our Job Source search tool, and one-on-one virtual support.
CERTIFICATION SCHEDULE:Check the schedule to find the correct time slot to certify for benefits based on your Social Security Number (SSN).
FEDERAL EXTENDED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS EXPIRED ON SEPTEMBER 4, 2021: Please note that you will still be able to receive benefits for weeks prior to September 4, if you are found eligible for a claim filed before September 4, 2021. Any funds that appear as remaining in your unemployment account related to these federal programs will not be available for certification or payment for weeks of unemployment ending after September 4, 2021. Learn more about state extended unemployment benefits here.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND SUPPORT: Click here for links to assistance with food, housing, child care, health, and more.
107,000+ jobless workers losing unemployment benefits in Maryland
BALTIMORE — More than 107,000 unemployment insurance claimants will stop receiving benefits in Maryland on September 5.
Federal pandemic unemployment programs expire nationwide on September 6, however, the U.S. Department of Labor only allows states to pay claimants for a full week of unemployment. In Maryland, a full week is from Sunday to Saturday. Partial weeks of unemployment are not payable.
As of the week ending August 28, there were 68,738 claimants receiving benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and 39,119 claimants receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides an additional $300 per week for claimants who receive at least $1 in benefits under another unemployment insurance program and the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation Program (MEUC) providing an additional $100 weekly benefit payment to eligible claimants will also be expiring.
WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii asked the Maryland Department of Labor if claimants under these programs will still receive backpay. In an email, a spokeswoman wrote:
"Claims that include weeks of eligibility that end on or before September 4 will be processed even after the federal programs expire. Claimants will receive benefits for all weeks they are determined to be eligible for, even if a determination of eligibility occurs after September 4. If a claimant is waiting to receive an eligibility determination for any federal program, the Department will ensure that they receive all payments owed for those weeks."
The Department has also extended the deadline for jobless workers to file a claim under the PUA program through October 6, 2021. Up until that date, the Department will accept new initial claims for PUA benefits for weeks of unemployment ending between December 12, 2020, and September 4, 2021. Claimants are only eligible for PUA benefits for weeks they were unemployed or partially unemployed because of an approved COVID-19 related reason.
And while President Biden has said states can use federal pandemic-related funds to extend unemployment benefits, a Department spokeswoman said that will not happen in Maryland. Federal programs will end as planned on September 4th.
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