Maryland completes initial investigation into $501M fraudulent unemployment claims scheme

The state of Maryland has concluded its initial review into a $501 million fraudulent unemployment claims scheme uncovered in July, and announced that it has identified more than 123,000 additional claims that are likely fraudulent. The Department of Labor first revealed on July 15 that it had discovered a "massive and sophisticated criminal enterprise" that had filed tens of thousands of fraudulent Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Claims with the state. PUA claims are part of new federal program rolled out in May that provides unemployment coverage to independent contractors, gig workers, sole proprietors and other self-employed people. (Balt Bus Journal)

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Elijah Cummings endured ‘pure pain’ from Trump’s Twitter attacks, Maryland congressman writes in posthumous book

In the months before his death, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings wrote that he endured “pure pain” from repeated Twitter attacks by President Donald Trump — whom he once wanted to trust — but resolved not to be baited into responding in anger. “You can imagine it and try to dismiss it, saying he’s just a blowhard and schoolyard tough guy, using his thumbs on Twitter like fists,” the Baltimore Democrat wrote in a book being released next Tuesday. “But the reality, the harsh cold onslaught, is just pure pain.” (Balt Sun)

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Maryland prosecutors say they’re best equipped to prosecute police misconduct

As Maryland lawmakers consider policing reforms, local prosecutors are pushing to maintain their authority to prosecute cases of police misconduct. Elected state’s attorneys told a group of lawmakers Thursday that they are better suited to take problem officers to court — not the attorney general, the state prosecutor or another entity. (Balt Sun)

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Senate approves new grant program, increased federal funding for Chesapeake Bay

The U.S. Senate has approved a spending increase for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program and the creation of a $15 million program to help with habitat restoration on the Bay. The Senate measure increase funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program from $40 million to $92 million. The Senate also approved creation of a new $15 million U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant program to help restore habitats on the Eastern Shore and other Bay regions. (Star Dem)

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Anne Arundel County executive expands grants, partnerships to prevent coronavirus evictions

Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced Thursday a slate of measures to help residents avoid eviction, including hiring former legal aid attorney Lisa Sarro to assist with the already established prevention program. While rent court proceedings wrapped up inside, Pittman stood in front of Maryland District Court in Annapolis and pledged to use more than $190,000 toward keeping county residents in their homes during the pandemic. He criticized the federal and state government for doing too little to prevent the economic unraveling people now face because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Balt Sun)

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Maryland General Assembly leaders: No special session planned

The leaders of the Maryland General Assembly announced Wednesday that they will not hold a special session, despite calls from activists who want immediate action on housing, policing reform and other issues. Senate President Bill Ferguson and House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones made a surprise appearance at an Annapolis rally organized to push for a special session. More than 100 participants from groups including Progressive Maryland, Jews United for Justice and immigrant rights group CASA spread out on folding chairs on a grassy area near a school to demonstrate that lawmakers could safely hold legislative hearings and votes. (Balt Sun)

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Marylanders are still calling about stalled unemployment benefits. And no one is answering the phone.

More than six months after the coronavirus pandemic triggered a deluge of unemployment claims in the Washington region, some jobless Marylanders are still experiencing major problems getting benefits and have endured weeks — or months — without the payments they are supposed to receive. The main frustration, they say, is they cannot get anyone to answer their calls. After waiting on hold for a claims agent, applicants say, they end up with an automated message: “We cannot help you at this time.” Then, the call drops. (Wash Post)

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Maryland’s state lawmakers urge passage of legislation aimed at reducing health care disparities

Maryland’s state lawmakers teamed up with health care advocates and community leaders on Wednesday to urge the passage of legislation that is aimed at reducing disparities in care and would be funded by a 1% increase in the state’s alcohol tax. “This initiative is putting us one step forward. If the coronavirus and the implications have taught us anything else-its that communities of color are really suffering as it relates to health disparities throughout their community. And I think this legislation is one step further in right direction,” Sen. Antonio Hayes (D-Baltimore City) said at a virtual news conference that was held on the video meeting site Zoom. (Md Reporter)

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