As Maryland workers and employers begin to feel the full force of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 83,000 Marylanders filed unemployment claims last week, according to new numbers released by the U.S. Labor Department Thursday morning — almost double the number that filed the previous week. More than 6.6 million workers sought new unemployment benefits nationwide.
The latest number for Maryland — 84,230 — confirms the prediction of state Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson, delivered to members of the General Assembly Wednesday, that the number from two weeks ago would be “blown out of the water.”
42,334 Marylanders filed unemployment during the week that ended on March 21.
That compares to the 3,852 people who filed for unemployment the week that ended March 14, and the 2,090 Marylanders who applied for benefits a week earlier. The latter figure is close to the weekly statewide average.
But the numbers are almost certain to go even higher in the weeks ahead, and Robinson warned lawmakers Wednesday that the state trust fund that pays for unemployment benefits could wind up being depleted.
For many workers, unemployment insurance is a vital safety net that provides some funding for life’s necessities, like housing and food and medicine.
But how strong is the safety net, actually?
The state’s unemployment insurance fund is funded by the payroll taxes that Maryland’s employers pay. Last year, 148,000 employers paid $442 million into the fund, Dayne Freeman, assistant secretary for Unemployment Insurance at the Maryland Department of Labor, said in an interview. In Maryland, the payroll tax rate is 1.99% — that’s lower than many states.
Meanwhile, a federal payroll tax funds the Maryland Department of Labor’s costs associated with administering unemployment insurance.
Overall, the unemployment trust fund had about $1.176 billion in it as of Tuesday, Robinson said.
The federal government has been taking action to ease the bleed on the economy by paying for the first week of unemployment insurance benefits claims filed through the balance of the year, in addition to providing zero-interest loans for state unemployment trust funds.
Robinson said the unemployment benefits will be available for those who need them for an extra 13 weeks. Currently the state only guarantees 26 weeks of unemployment payments.
The state’s goal is to cover about 54% of an unemployed individual’s lost wages, Freeman said, but there are limits. Generally speaking, the state pays between $50 and $430 a week, depending on a worker’s lost income.
Here is a list of unemployment claims filed during the week that ended March 28, by jurisdiction.
|Claim Filed By:||Phone||Internet||Agent||Paper|
|Non – Maryland||428||4881||0||14|
|Totals by Type:||3,396||80,791||0||43|
Nationally, the 6.6 million Americans who sought new unemployment benefits last week doubles the number who filed claims during the week that ended on March 21.
Hannah Gaskill contributed to this report.