Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s office has since said that it will stop trying to end unemployment benefits for eligible residents.
A circuit court judge in Baltimore has ordered Maryland to continue paying federal unemployment benefits to jobless workers, even after state Gov. Larry Hogan moved to block the continued disbursement of pandemic-related benefits.
According to The Washington Post, Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill granted a preliminary injunction in two lawsuits, both of which were filed by worker advocacy organizations hoping to ensure the continuity of unemployment aid.
In his Tuesday ruling, Fletcher-Hill found that the plaintiffs were able to adequately demonstrate they may suffer “irreparable harm” if a preliminary injunction were not issued.
During the same hearing, Maryland’s labor secretary, Tiffany Robinson, said the Biden administration told her agency that it must provide the federal government with 30 days’ notice to stop benefits.
In other words, Maryland residents will continue receiving aid until at least mid-August, regardless of whether Fletcher-Hill or any other judge moves to extend the current injunction.
The Post notes that the additional federal aid—which adds $300 per week to state unemployment benefits—was intended to help people who had lost jobs or income during pandemic-related shutdown, illness, and hardship.
The program also included a form of “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance,” or PUA, which extended benefits to independent contractors, gig workers, and other people who are not typically covered by unemployment insurance programs.
However, Hogan sought to terminate Maryland’s participation in the federal unemployment programs, and also wanted to reinstate a “work search” requirement for people receiving benefits.
Hogan, like Republican governors across the country, has claimed that unemployment benefits hurt the state’s economy and disincentivize unemployed person from seeking or resuming work. There are currently about 200,000 job openings in Maryland—a figure which mirrors the number of people continuing to receive pandemic unemployment benefits.
While Hogan has stressed that many industries are now experiencing a “critical” shortage of workers, labor activists have pointed out that people may be unwilling to return to positions which pay near-starvation-level wages.
Nevertheless, Maryland has protested Fletcher-Hill’s decision, saying that—while it will no longer attempted to cut federally-funded unemployment benefits—it is disappointed by the court’s ruling.
“We fundamentally disagree with today’s decision. This lawsuit is hurting our small businesses, jeopardizing our economic recovery, and will cause significant job loss. Most states have already ended enhanced benefits, and the White House and the US Department of Labor have affirmed that states have every right to do so,” Hogan’s office said in a statement. “While we firmly believe the law is on our side, actual adjudication of the case would extend beyond the end of the federal programs, foregoing the possibility of pursuing the matter further.”
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