STATE UNCOVERS VAST JOBLESS CLAIM SCHEME: Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday that Maryland officials uncovered a scheme that involved widespread unemployment insurance fraud using identity theft involving more than 47,500 fraudulent claims and totaling over $501 million, Bryan Renbaum reports in MarylandReporter.
- The illegal activity was detected over the July Fourth weekend. Hogan said the state quickly notified federal authorities when it learned about the scheme, and put holds on paying out-of-state claims, Pamela Wood and Jeff Barker of the Sun report.
- Maryland’s discovery, Hogan said, led federal authorities to related scams in “at least” 12 other states. Erin Cox of the Post reports that the governor said none of the fraudulent claims in Maryland received payments, but the benefits of a small number of legitimate claimants in need were frozen during the investigation.
- Hogan emphasized that Maryland’s unemployment insurance data hasn’t been breached, and said claimants’ data hasn’t been compromised. He said the state is working with federal officials, who have uncovered similar attempts at fraud across the country, Bennett Leckrone reports for Maryland Matters.
- Hogan pointed to the fraudulent claims as a reason why the state has resisted calls by lawmakers and others to release payments even as the state works to adjudicate claims, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.
- Here’s Rachel Baye’s report for WYPR-FM.
- Here’s the governor’s 40-minute press conference, courtesy WBFF-TV.
AMID PROGRESS, SOME AWAIT JOBLESS BENEFITS: Four months into an unemployment crisis spawned by the coronavirus pandemic, about 24,000 people remain unable to get the full benefits they’ve applied for through Maryland’s Department of Labor, Jean Marbella of the Sun reports. Claims from about 4% of applicants are awaiting adjudication in the state’s problem-plagued unemployment insurance system.That has left many with little or no income as bills continue to come due. For some, that includes federal and state income taxes due this week.
ELECTIONS PANELS SEEKS NEW BALLOT PRINTER: The Maryland Board of Elections is searching for a new ballot printing vendor ahead of the November election after numerous printing and mailing mistakes were reported during the June primary, Emily Opilo of the Sun reports.
COVID TESTING DEMAND DELAYS RESULTS: Increased demand for coronavirus testing is now causing delays for people waiting for results and it’s raising concerns about slowing the effort to contain the spread, reports Jayne Miller for WBAL-TV.
MO CO MEETS FEWER REOPENING BENCHMARKS: Montgomery County on Tuesday was meeting fewer of the benchmarks it set for reopening and easing restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic than it was meeting over the weekend, Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat reports.
PG COVID CASES DECLINE: Although coronavirus cases in Prince George’s County continue to decline, officials still warn residents that the pandemic hasn’t gone anywhere. County Council member Jolene Ivey (D-District 5) of Cheverly praised residents for doing a simple gesture: wearing masks, William Ford reports for the Washington Informer.
STATE JOINS TRUCK EMISSIONS PACT: Maryland this week has entered into an agreement with 14 other states and the District of Columbia to reduce emissions from trucks, buses and other large vehicles to improve air quality and combat the effects of climate change. The goal is to transition to 100% zero-emission trucks and buses by 2050, Josh Kurtz reports for Maryland Matters.
PARENTS WRESTLE WITH SCHOOL DECISION: Mary Rose Madden of WYPR-FM speaks with parents who are wrestling with the question of whether to send their kid into the classroom this fall, log them on or come up with Option C. Will schools be 100% virtual? 100% in-person? A hybrid model with some in-person teaching?
SCHOOLS REOPENING: Here’s an update on how schools are approaching reopening:
- CARROLL COUNTY: The draft plan right now for Carroll County Public Schools is to split students into A and B groups, writes Catalina Righter for the Carroll County Times. One group will be in the building while the other learns at home. The A cohort would be in school on Monday and Tuesday. All students would be virtual on Wednesdays to allow for a deep clean of the buildings. The B cohort would be in school Thursday and Friday.
- MONTGOMERY: Students in Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools will attend classes virtually when the new school year begins, with plans to bring them back in the classroom sometime this fall, Luke Lukert of WTOP-FM reports. But what happens when a student in Maryland’s largest school system tests positive for coronavirus?
- Montgomery County Public Schools’ Superintendent Jack Smith on Wednesday said district officials “absolutely will” notify families if their children are exposed to COVID-19 when school buildings reopen, Caitlynn Peetz reports for Bethesda Beat.
- PRINCE GEORGE’S: Prince George’s County Public Schools students will continue distance learning at the start of the school year through January 2021. Schools CEO Monica Goldson announced the reopening plan Wednesday afternoon, citing broad input from staff, families and other community members, Teta Alim of WTOP-FM reports.
- Since Prince George’s has the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, Goldson said no in-person education will happen from the first day of school on Aug. 31 through Jan. 29. The plans to shrink a digital divide in the schools will include Wi-Fi access for certain families, distribution of technology devices and teaching through the school system’s local television broadcast, William Ford reports for the Washington Informer.
STATE MVA UPGRADE CALLED ‘DISASTER:’ Customer Connect is a five-year system modernization project that consolidates all existing IT systems at MDOT MVA into a single solution for driver licensing, business licensing and title and registration services, Mallory Sofastaii of WMAR-TV reports. But, when the system went live on July 6, Phil Blackiston, president of Maryland Title & Tag Services in Aberdeen, said business wasn’t streamlined, it stopped.
QUESTIONS ABOUT HOGAN’s RECOLLECTIONS: Gov. Larry Hogan’s forthcoming political memoir has a hefty chunk that describes his recollection of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and the days of demonstrations and unrest that followed. But, write Pamela Wood and Justin Fenton for the Sun, some of Hogan’s accounts aren’t backed up by evidence in those five chapters or don’t correlate with what’s publicly known about the events. [The five chapters released to the press amount to about 40 pages of 260-page book.]
PG SEEKS PUBLIC INPUT ON POLICE REFORM: With a continued search for a new police chief and discussions on police reform, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks wants to ensure residents have some input in the process, writes William Ford for the Washington Informer. A survey will be released soon that will provide residents up to 30 days to respond. “We want the public to make sure you go in and take part of that survey,” Alsobrooks said
OPINION: DEFUND THE POLICE IS FOR RICH FOLKS: In a column for the Capital Gazette, Michael Collins opines that it’s easy to say “Defund the Police” — if you’re rich. You can afford private security. People in poorer communities don’t have that luxury. When police pull back, they know that criminals will fill the vacuum and rule the streets through violence.