Benchmarks of Success Issue 18, April 2020

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Monthly Newsletter  -  Issue 18, April 2020

Serving Workforce System Customers in the Time of Coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic gripped Maryland with breathtaking speed.

In three short weeks in March of 2020, our state progressed from the first confirmed cases of the coronavirus to the closure of all non-essential businesses. Employers were compelled to temporarily shut their doors. Many workers suddenly lost their incomes. And the ongoing need to maintain social distancing to slow the spread of the virus radically reframed unemployment and reemployment solutions. There has never been a greater need for the partner programs in Maryland’s workforce system to work collaboratively, think creatively, and act quickly to support the state’s businesses and workers.

This special edition of the Benchmarks of Success newsletter is dedicated to lifting up examples of how workforce system partners, both state and local, have rapidly adapted to changing conditions to meet customer needs in these extraordinary times.

Supporting Maryland Businesses

The critically important actions taken by Governor Hogan to contain the spread of COVID-19 unfortunately also disrupted normal business operations across the state. Many small business hard hit by the crisis were faced with the harsh reality that they would be forced to lay off their workers. To help small businesses mitigate potential layoffs or facility closures and promote social distancing, the Maryland Department of Labor’s (Labor’s) Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning (DWDAL) developed the COVID-19 Layoff Aversion Fund (no longer accepting applications) to provide small businesses with grants of up to $50,000. DWDAL received over 100 applications in the first hour following the announcement of the new fund. As of April 22, over $10 million was obligated to over 430 employers across the State, resulting in over 9,000 Maryland employees avoiding layoffs. Nearly 50 staff from the division came together to quickly mobilize and implement this initiative to provide immediate relief--what a true team effort. Employers awarded funds through the Layoff Aversion Fund are using the money to do things such as:

  • Purchase new equipment, such as reliable headphones and laptops that will allow employees to continue to work remotely;
  • Reimburse employees for extra data usage on their personal phones;
  • Purchase software and computer applications that facilitate remote work;
  • Cover the cost of deep cleaning of work sites to maintain a safe work environment; and
  • Pay for staff to participate in professional development activities.

On another front, Governor Hogan authorized the Maryland Department of Commerce to distribute $130 million in loan and grant funds to small businesses and manufacturers through three different funding opportunities:

To assist businesses with the increased vulnerabilities of cybersecurity attacks as companies transition to remote work, the Governor's Workforce Development Board (GWDB) has promoted a free cybersecurity breach incident hotline for Maryland businesses.This service is provided by the Cybersecurity Association of Maryland (CAMI). The GWDB also promoted information regarding Baltimore Robotics Center as they are providing free refurbished laptops, tablets, and high-speed internet access to students in underserved areas of Baltimore for remote learning. Additionally, the GWDB is also starting to assist the Division of Unemployment Insurance (DUI) with various communication and outreach support.

Supporting Maryland Jobseekers

The 30 American Job Centers (AJCs) located throughout Maryland may be physically closed, but our AJC staff are continuing to provide customers with many customized services via phone, email, video conferencing, and through virtual resources and tools. For example, the professional career counselors delivering services through the Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment are combining real-time webinars and one-on-one counseling sessions with customers to assist them in developing actionable reemployment plans.

Supporting Unemployed Marylanders

Since Governor Hogan’s declaration of a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 400 hardworking professionals in Labor’s Division of Unemployment Insurance (DUI) have stepped up to meet the nearly inconceivable challenge of serving over 300,000 newly unemployed Marylanders in a six-week timespan. Labor quickly acted to expand the capacity of the staff and systems to handle the exponentially increased demand:

  • Call center hours were extended to run from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm and Saturday hours became available beginning April 18, 2020.
  • Staff capacity was expanded. Two-hundred new call and claim takers were added, and more than 150 current state employees were brought in to provide support. In addition, Labor is hiring over 100 new DUI employees.
  • Systems capacity was expanded. A new one-stop unemployment insurance application went live on April 24, 2020 that allows all newly eligible Marylanders to file all types of claims entirely online, including individuals who were previously required to file by phone, such as those who are federal employees, members of the military, have worked in multiple states, and have worked for more than three employers in the last 18 months.

DUI is the primary Maryland administrator of the new federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act expands UI benefits for workers impacted by COVID-19 through three programs: 1) the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, 2) the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, and 3) the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program.

  • The FPUC program launched on April 17, 2020. It provides UI benefit recipients with an additional $600 per week payment on top of their current regular benefits. Current and future claimants who are eligible for benefits the week ending April 4 will see this additional $600 per week payment on the day of their next regularly scheduled payment by 5 p.m. Marylanders will receive benefits retroactive to their earliest date of eligibility, so many individuals may see $1,200 deposited on their debit card to cover this payment for the past two weeks.
  • The PUA program launched on April 24, 2020. PUA provides benefits for those who are self-employed, independent contractors, gig economy workers, have insufficient work history, or have exhausted their benefits since July 1, 2019 and are eligible for benefits. They will now be able to submit their applications online and receive their benefits retroactive to their earliest date of eligibility.
  • The PEUC program, also launched on April 24, 2020, automatically provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits to eligible new claimants and those already receiving benefits under the CARES Act. Current eligible claimants do not need to take any additional steps to receive these extended benefits. Labor will be directly contacting Marylanders who have recently exhausted their benefits, so they can use the new online application to reapply and receive the additional 13 weeks to which they are entitled.

For more information about UI in Maryland during COVID-19, please visit

Supporting Marylanders Struggling with Low Incomes

The Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) has secured more than $66 million through a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Emergency Allotment from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that will benefit 319,000 SNAP households across the state during April and May of 2020. The USDA has also agreed to extend certification periods and adjust reporting requirements for six months.

DHS has also waived work requirements across all eligibility programs and extended the redetermination requirements for Marylanders receiving cash benefits for an additional six months (such as Temporary Cash Assistance and Temporary Disability Assistance). 

Applicants and participants without access to computers can submit hard copy documents related to obtaining or updating benefits and services at secure drop boxes at local Department of Social Services (DSS) office locations across Maryland.

DSS offices across the state are closed, but DSS staff are continuing to provide services and resources remotely. Marylanders can get information, apply for programs, and check the status of applications online at Residents may also call the DHS Call Center at 1-800-332-6347 (TTY 1-800-735-2258), available from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday.

Community Action Agencies (CAA) across Maryland have continued to serve low-income individuals. For example, the Harford CAA (HCAA) is continuing to operate their Continua of Care and  Homelessness Solutions Program operations. HCAA has turned its food pantry into a drive-through-only food pantry and has created a mobile food pantry to distribute food in partnership with Harford County Public Schools feeder sites.

Supporting Marylanders Learning

All Maryland adult education programs have quickly risen to the challenges of closures created by COVID-19 and have adjusted programming to providing instruction via distance learning. Distance learning methods have been tailored to specific student populations, program capabilities, and instructional knowledge. Some programs are using educational technology programs exclusively, most are using collaborative tools to ensure ongoing communication between staff, instructors, and students, and some are incorporating textbook use and live online classes.

The Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Program (MATP) has provided guidance to all Registered Apprenticeship Sponsors to aid in their modification of delivery methods for Related Instruction. This has allowed Sponsors to administer Related Instruction online or in other formats so that apprentices continue to receive necessary education to advance in their training.  As a result of these alterations, employers benefit from having a highly educated and skilled workforce available during these challenging times.

The Montgomery Community College and the Montgomery Community College Foundation partnered to award $352,000 to students to help them continue their education despite the disruptions caused by COVID-19. Some students are using the funds to purchase laptops so they can succeed in courses that have been moved to an online format. Others are using funds to pay for rent and food.

Hagerstown Community College is partnering with Antietam Broadband to assist eligible students with access to high-speed internet so they can complete course work from home while the college is operating remotely.

To help students facing similar connections challenges in Carroll County, the Carroll County Community College has developed an agreement with Xfinity/Comcast to offer free access to Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots in the community at no charge for 60 days.

Supporting Maryland Jobseekers with Disabilities

The regional offices of the Maryland State Department of Education’s Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) offices are now closed. However, counselors and supervisors working in the DORS Office of Field Services (OFS) and Office for Blindness & Vision Services (OBVS), as well as much of DORS administrative staff, were already accustomed to mobile work and were equipped to respond to the new demands created by the COVID-19 crisis. OFS and OBVS are providing many virtual services, including job placement, résumé development, job coaching, and virtual interviewing. OBVS is preparing to offer virtual Pre-employment Transition Services, mentoring, and distant learning programs.

The Disability Determination Services (DDS) staff responsible for evaluating the eligibility of Marylanders who apply for Social Security disability programs and benefits are working remotely to process applications and claims.

Maryland Business Enterprise for the Blind vendors operating in state buildings that are closed due to COVID-19 will each get $1,000 to help defray their business losses.

EARN Maryland (EARN) Programs - Supporting Marylanders

EARN is a highly successful state-funded, competitive workforce development grant program that is industry-led, regional in focus, and a proven strategy for helping businesses cultivate the skilled workforce they need to compete. Here are some stellar examples of EARN grantees stepping up to support their state:

  • The Asian American Center of Frederick (AACF) is an EARN grantee involved in many activities to help their community during the COVID-19 pandemic. AACF's Community Health Workers (CHWs) are making masks, conducting a food drop project for at-risk populations, and are delivering packages with diapers and other items to vulnerable families with babies. AACF is encouraged by the community impact of CHWs under the EARN grant and will continue developing sustainable partnerships to further enhance capacity and improve health equity in Maryland.
  • The BioTechnical Institute of Maryland (BTI), has shifted the classroom portion of their training to an online format so as not to delay preparing their students for employment. This training is critical as BTI is preparing students for entry-level opportunities in BioTech, and the trainees could eventually be on the frontlines fighting COVID-19 from a lab perspective. Since students are working remotely and are no longer physically in labs, BTI was able to donate excess personal protective equipment to support COVID-19 prevention and treatment efforts. This equipment, including gloves, cotton swabs, and surgical masks was donated to a Chase Brexton Health Services, an organization that serves regions throughout the state.
  • The Maryland Food Bank (MFB), is distributing boxed meals at select sites that typically host MFB Summer Clubs in locations across central Maryland. These “Grab & Go” meals will be available to children and families for pick up. Implementing the Summer Club Program early will help food-insecure Marylanders during this heightened time of need amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, five culinary students from the EARN funded training program volunteer on a daily basis to help with packing Grab and Go boxes.


Quick Resources

Benchmarks of Success Resource Page

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Resource Page

Maryland’s State Workforce Plan


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Download and share the Benchmarks of Success poster, rack card, and two-sided flyer!

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Employ Prince George's COVID-19 Hourly Employee Relief Fund

Employ PG

On March 23, 2020, Employ Prince George’s launched the Prince George’s County COVID-19 Hourly Employee Relief Fund. The goal of the Fund is to raise $500,000 to provide immediate cash assistance, $200 Visa Gift Cards per Prince George’s County resident, to over 2,000 residents. The fund placed a priority on serving 1099 and low-wage hourly workers, who could use the $200 to help them in-between their last paycheck and their first Unemployment Insurance benefit payment.

The fund was launched with a $100,000 grant from the Greater Washington Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. As of April 20, Employ Prince George’s has raised over $217,000. Employ Prince George’s is partnering with local municipalities and businesses to disburse funds to residents, and has disbursed over $64,000 to Prince George’s County residents.

See local media coverage about Employ Prince George’s efforts  at, and make a tax deductible donation to the COVID-19 Hourly Employee Relief Fund at

Workforce Partners

Maryland Department of Labor                                                                  Maryland Department of Human Services

Maryland State Department of Education                                                Governor's Workforce Development Board

Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development                            Maryland Workforce Association

Did You Know...?


Maryland's Latest Workforce Development Updates 

  • While it's true that many people have been laid off by businesses forced to close due to COVID-19, there is another side to the story. Surprisingly, the pandemic has driven hiring in some businesses, too. To learn where the latest job opportunities are popping up, visit
  • The Literacy Council of Montgomery County (LCMC) is a provider of Adult Education and Literacy Services working to advance social and economic equity for under-served adults through academic instruction and workforce development. As COVID-19 brought normal operations to a halt, LCMC rolled with the punches, immediately transitioning courses to an online format. Students interested in continuing to develop their English language skills are invited to participate in free conversation groups - "LC Chats" - with no registration required. Instructors have been engaged in extensive professional development during down time, and LCMC is using social media to showcase pandemic resources and Census 2020 resources for learners.

  • As mentioned earlier in the feature article, Community Action Agencies (CAAs) are private or public nonprofit organizations created by the federal government in 1964 to combat poverty in geographically designated areas. Every community in Maryland is supported by one of the 16 CAAs now operating in the state. While the resources that individual CAAs offer vary based on funding and the specific needs of the geographic area they serve, all do their best to help those who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Some of the services CAAs offer include:

    • The Maryland Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) and the Electric Universal Service Program
    • Transportation Programs 
    • Crisis intervention and emergency assistance
    • The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
    • Emergency Food Assistance
    • Emergency Assistance to Families with Children
    • Housing, including rental assistance and foreclosure assistance and prevention, and eviction prevention resources
    • Occupational Training
    • Adult Basic Education and GED resources
    • Job Programs for Youth
    • Financial Literacy Courses

    To find the locations and contact information for the CAA nearest you, visit

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has taken our state into new, uncharted territory, causing businesses to shut down and workers to be laid off in unprecedented numbers. Everyone has questions about what to do next. Multiple state workforce system partners have developed Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) documents to address the most common questions they are receiving. The FAQs are great resources that will continue to be updated as new questions arise, so check the links often for new information.

    FAQs for Workforce System Jobseeker Customers:

    • The Maryland Department of Labor (MD Labor) Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning (DWDAL) posted FAQ documents in several languages at
    • The Division of Unemployment Insurance posted a FAQ document specifically targeted to unemployment issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic at
    • The Maryland Department of Health developed a COVID-19 Informational Portal that provides information on the background of the illness, the practice of social distancing, FAQs, and additional resources at

    FAQs for Workforce System Business Customers:

    • The Maryland Department of Commerce has added a brand new webpage to the Maryland Business Express website devoted specifically to addressing issues related to COVID-19. The webpage is chock-full of valuable information, including a host of new resources designed to support businesses through the period of mandatory closure.
    • For a helpful FAQs document prepared by Maryland’s Department of Commerce, visit
    • The Governor's office has also put together a FAQ document geared to answering questions from business community.

    Has your agency developed FAQs that other partners who share your customers could benefit from? If so, please forward them to  


Benchmarks of Success Newsletters


Benchmarks of Success Committee Updates

  • The Executive Steering Committee is composed of the leaders of the partner agencies that work together to help Maryland job seekers achieve self-sufficiency through employment and help Maryland employers access the skills their businesses need to compete and thrive in a global economy. You can learn more about the Executive Steering Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The WIOA Alignment Group brings together the leaders of partner programs to collaboratively address issues, plan joint efforts, make recommendations to the Executive Steering Committee, and manage and guide the activities of the Benchmarks of Success committees. You can learn more about the WIOA Alignment Group’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Data and Dashboard Committee has spent countless hours establishing shared definitions for workforce system terminology, exploring the differences in data collection and performance tracking across different partner programs, and finding new ways to combine data from multiple sources to analyze the performance of Maryland’s workforce system more holistically. The WIOA Alignment Group is working closely with the Data and Dashboard Committee to determine how the workforce system can use this data to improve continuously Maryland’s outcomes for job seekers and employers. You can learn more about the Data and Dashboard Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Communications Committee publishes an online monthly newsletter for the Benchmarks of Success initiative that provides the latest-greatest on what’s happening across the system. It’s a terrific resource for news of upcoming partner events and success stories. Feature articles will appear periodically in the 2020 newsletter featuring the work taking place in the Benchmarks of Success Committees, beginning with next month’s feature on the Data and Dashboard Committee. Stay tuned for a second feature article on the Professional Development and Technical Assistance Committee in the July/August newsletter, and a feature in the November/December newsletter on the Policy Committee. In addition to the newsletter, the Communications Committee has produced three important collateral documents to promote the Benchmarks of Success initiative across the state. Feel free to download and share the new posterrack card and flier! Printed versions of these materials will soon be distributed statewide to service sites operated by the Maryland Department of Labor, the Maryland Department of Human Services, the Maryland State Department of Education, Division of Rehabilitation Services, and the Maryland Department of Community Housing and Development. You can learn more about the Communications Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • The Policy Committee researches a variety of workforce policy issues throughout the year and produces an annual Policy Recommendations Report based on its findings. The recommendations included in the Report help to guide system priorities and initiatives. The Committee presented its 2019 Policy Recommendations Report at the January 2020 meeting of the WIOA Alignment Group, which positively recommended that it be passed along to the Executive Steering Committee for review. Stay tuned for more about this important report! You can learn more about the Policy Committee’s ongoing activities here.
  • Professional Development and Technical Assistance Committee – The state workforce system’s new Chief Learning Officer convened the first meeting of this important committee this March! The Committee will work to advance a unified professional development program that helps all partner programs: maximize access to and use of skills and credentialing and life management skills; eliminate barriers to employment through the use of supportive services; and strengthen and enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the workforce system. You can learn more about the Professional Development and Technical Assistance Committee’s ongoing activities here.


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