Maryland's unemployment website update creates frustration

BALTIMORE (AP) — A new version of Maryland’s unemployment insurance portal created frustration among claimants who said they were unable to file their claims upon its launch before the issue was later resolved.

The technical glitches came as BEACON 2.0, an update of the BEACON portal that experienced a surge in unemployment applications due to the coronavirus pandemic, was launched Sunday, The Baltimore Sun reported.

“It’s screwing me over,” Anne Arundel County resident Michelle Hammack told The Sun after having issues filing her claims on the new portal. “I’m concerned; it said I had no weeks to file.”

It was not clear how many people were affected by the glitches, but many had taken to social media groups designed for claimants to post about the update.

Maryland Labor Department spokesperson Fallon Pearre said the problem was resolved by the software vendor later on Sunday, and more than 112,000 claimants had successfully filed their claims as of 3 p.m. that same day. Hammack said she was able to file her claims after 6 p.m.

An email sent to claimants by the state’s labor department earlier this month said the new portal was supposed to be a “one-stop shop"; allowing claimants to file for benefits, check the status of claims and apply for new employment, the Sun reported.

Maryland Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson told lawmakers Thursday that staff would be testing the portal before it went live Sunday and would delay the launch if anything seemed problematic.

“We believe we are in a good place,” Robinson said during the virtual briefing Thursday. “It is a major IT project. There is always a chance of some kind of glitch.”

The department has struggled after being inundated with a historic number of claims since March, and many residents have experienced trouble navigating the unemployment website to receive benefits.