On April 24, 2020, the Maryland Department of Labor launched a new application, the BEACON One-Stop (Beacon), for online claims filing. Beacon provides Marylanders with a single platform to file claims for unemployment benefits, including the most recent federally-enacted unemployment programs through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Prior to April 24, Maryland was unequipped to process CARES Act claims.
Unemployment Benefits Under the CARES Act
The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020, created a number of new programs:
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): PUA allows individuals who are not eligible for regular benefits and cannot work due to COVID-19 related reasons to receive unemployment insurance benefits. PUA covers claimants who are self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, or claimants who have insufficient work history.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): PEUC provides up to 13 weeks of additional unemployment benefits to individuals who previously collected unemployment compensation but exhausted those benefits. Ordinarily, Maryland claimants may only collect unemployment benefits for 26 weeks.
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC): The FPUC provides an additional $600 per week to eligible claimants, for the weeks ending April 24 through July 25.
Under these programs, eligible Marylanders will receive their regular weekly benefit amount – which ranges from $50 to $430 per week – plus an additional $600 per week (through July 31).
Maryland residents are eligible for unemployment compensation benefits the day after they are separated from employment. Benefits are calculated from the date an individual becomes eligible for benefits, not from the date they file an application.
Despite technical difficulties due to an overwhelmed system, Maryland reported 44,000 new accounts in BEACON, 150,000 users accessing the application, and more than 19,000 new claims processed by the close of business on the day of the launch.
What Maryland Employers Should Know
- Tax rates: Employers in Maryland will not see an increase in their unemployment insurance tax rate for 2020 due to COVID-19 claims. Unemployment insurance benefits are proportionately charged to each employer based on the employee’s earnings in their base period. Employers may see an increase in their 2021 tax rate as a result of benefits paid due to COVID-19; however, tax rates are calculated based on benefits that have been charged to the employer account over the prior three years, ending on June 30. Thus, any benefits paid due to COVID-19 from March to June will comprise only four months of the 36 months used to calculate the 2021 tax rate for employers.
- Bulk Claim Service: Employers in Maryland with 25 or more employees who will be impacted by a coronavirus-related layoff or shutdown may use the Maryland Unemployment Insurance Bulk Claim Service to initiate the claims process for employees, which will eliminate the need to complete a Request for Separation Notice (DOL/DUI 207) for each employee individually. More information can be found on the Maryland Department of Labor’s website.
- Quarterly Wage Report Requirement: Employers in Maryland are still required to file their quarterly wage reports electronically or use a third party payroll service to submit the report. The Maryland Department of Labor says this requirement will be strictly enforced in BEACON. Maryland refers employers to its Employer Assistance Unit to answer questions employers may have with respect to submitting wage reports.
Maryland employers can find more information about BEACON on the Maryland Department of Labor’s website.
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