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What do I need to know about filing for Unemployment Insurance?

Question: I’ve never filed for Unemployment Insurance Benefits before. What do I need to know? Answer: There is a lot of information to know about Unemployment Insurance Benefits. First, we would like to inform you that the Business and Employment Center is not the Unemployment Office. Frederick County no longer has an Unemployment Office.  All Unemployment Insurance claims are done over the phone or by Internet. However, we do provide the resources that job seekers can use to do their job search. You are welcome to attend our seminars and use our Career Resources Lab. Once you have attended a Frederick County Workforce Services (FCWS) Orientation, you will be assigned a Career Specialist to discuss how they can assist you with your job search. You will also need to sign up in the Maryland Workforce Exchange system (www.mwejobs.com). See our Events Calendar on our website for what’s happening this month. Unemployment Insurance (UI) is a complicated system, and each person’s situation is unique, so FCWS staff are not able to answer specific questions about your eligibility, etc. We recommend you call the UI call center with your questions; this is the best source of correct answers. There are no walk-in UI offices in Maryland, only call centers. To file your initial claim, call 1-877-293-4125 or 301-723-2000. If you want to ask questions, call 1-800-827-4839. Your call will go to the next available staff person. Do not worry if they mention a faraway location; it’s a call center, so he or she can help you even if they are halfway across the state. Patience is essential. Do not call when you are in a hurry; plan to wait for quite a while. The UI Office is dealing with thousands of calls every week, so the phone lines are extremely busy. They have extended their hours to 7:30 am -7:30 pm, Monday through Friday. Mondays are the busiest days. You will probably wait less if you call very early in the morning or towards the end of the day. If you would rather file your claim on the Internet, the site you want is www.mdunemployment.com. You’re welcome to use the computer at the Business and Employment Center for this purpose. After your claim is established, you’ll need to file it every other week. You can do it by phone (it’s called a “telecert”) by calling 877-293-4125. You can also file a “webcert” at www.mdunemployment.com.  You will get a booklet called What You Should Know About Unemployment Insurance in Maryland. This will tell you most of what you need to know, so be sure to read it carefully. You can also find it online at www.dllr.state.md.us/employment/slmtguide/uiclmtpamphlet.pdf. If you still have questions, call 1-800-827-4839. Again, be sure to allow plenty of time. You need to know that UI payments are taxable. Typically UI runs up to 26 weeks (six months), but your situation may be different. Some UI recipients are invited to a one-day, mandatory Early Intervention Workshop. In Frederick County, it is held at the Business and Employment Center. If you are invited and do not come, you may lose your UI benefits. Your UI payment will probably be considerably less than you made while you were working. You are not meant to live off it; it is meant to cover your expenses while you are looking for work. In the last few months, UI has gone to a direct deposit system, meaning the payment goes to the bank and not directly to you. You may receive a debit card, and you will need to establish a PIN number (Personal Identification Number) to access the funds. There is a lot of information involved; the process is quite complicated. Be sure to read the booklet, and if you still have questions, call the number above. Ask your questions till you are sure you understand. And we will see you at the Business and Employment Center to help with your job search! We wish you success in this tough time, and in your new career.