On March 23, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) stated how proud he was of our unemployment system’s fast response in a press release. “As a result of Maryland’s fast programming and implementation of the newly extended federal programs,” he said, “eligible claimants will once again continue to receive much-needed financial relief without interruption.”

Well governor, as a current unemployment insurance claimant, let me be the first to thank you — I simply adore your sense of humor. The mention of the word “fast” and our unemployment system in the same sentence is nothing short of comedy. Because, in all seriousness, the portal that unemployment insurance claimants use to confirm their status each week is very regularly offline.

It’s the login page for that same portal that is so marred with bugs, the “Sign In” button glitches and impedes you from accessing your account. I also find your comment funny, since there are literally hundreds of Marylanders just like me that know what it’s like to have a career they’ve worked hard for, just to get laid off at the onset of a pandemic, but then find a new job, but then get laid off by the pandemic again, and then ultimately rely on unemployment insurance to meet their basic economic needs. The profound grief, anxiety, and fear of finding gainful employment in an incredibly frail and volatile market is the context needed to really sell the joke, for sure.

I’m glad you’re in on the joke. Because, since you’re clearly joking, you must know what it’s like to finally be awarded unemployment insurance, thinking your life may regain some semblance of stability. But, just as quickly as they came, those same payments cease altogether with no warning, exclamation or recourse. You try calling every day, only to be directed to an automated customer service bot asking you to try again tomorrow.

You keep calling, emailing and trying, hoping you can ask a person when you’ll be able to pay your bills. Just as long as you understand that “tomorrow” is not, in fact, a day away.

You will not hear from a caseworker, representative or even night shift custodian regarding your unemployment insurance. Unless, of course, you run a hail Mary and ask your state representative to intervene. In which case, your caseworker may respond to you in three days and let you know that they’ll get “around to it.”

But, if we were to have a serious conversation about this, we would talk about just how painful, godless, warped, and Byzantine the system actually is. We would talk about people like me that watch their dreams of homeownership dissolve, just like my savings account.

Let’s have a serious conversation about the other Marylanders that have had to snip every single thread of cash that they possibly could find, weave them into something almost like a safety net, and hold on by a thread, for dear life.

Let’s have a serious conversation about addressing unemployment in Maryland governor. I don’t think this is funny anymore.

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