Dear Speaker Jones and President Ferguson,
I write to you to urge you to prioritize the creation of a task force to investigate shortcomings in the BEACON One-Stop system set up by the Maryland Department of Labor and Sagitec, the vendor contracted to improve the state’s unemployment site. With the testimony provided to the Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and Senate Finance Committee, as well as hundreds of e-mails pouring into elected officials’ offices across the state, it is abundantly clear that there are major issues.
Nearly 500,000 Maryland citizens have filed for unemployment insurance since the middle of March. As of May 12, we still have citizens who have yet to receive payment since the first filing. According to a press release from the Department of Labor, 90 percent of claimants have received payment in 21 days. That still leaves tens of thousands of citizens stuck waiting beyond 21 days for payment. There is also the issue that citizens are receiving payment once or twice before payments stop.
There is also the harsh reality that many households simply cannot afford these extensive gaps in payment. Citizens all over Maryland are months behind on rent and mortgage payments, car and health insurance, gas and electric, credit card payments, and more. They are struggling to afford groceries and medications. This is unacceptable.
In 2015, the Maryland Board of Public Works awarded Sagitec a $49 million contract to modernize the state’s unemployment website. While the uptick in claims was something that was unforeseen and some of this falls on the system basically being overloaded, there are a number of other glitches and issues that thousands upon thousands of Marylanders have been dealing with. Considering the size of the contract awarded to Sagitec and the adverse issues that Maryland citizens are facing almost two months into this pandemic, it is paramount we figure out where exactly we went wrong.
I hereby call on you to prioritize the creation of a task force to investigate the shortcomings of the BEACON One-Stop system and make recommendations on how to fix the system currently in place. It is clear we were woefully unprepared to deal with a situation like this, and we need to do all we can to remedy that.
Delegate Harry Bhandari