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Judge Temporarily Extends Maryland's Supplemental Unemployment Benefits

BALTIMORE -- Hours before Governor Larry Hogan’s order to end additional unemployment benefits was set to take place, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill put in place a temporary restraining order allowing the federal unemployment benefits to continue past the midnight deadline on July 3rd. The restraining order will expire in 10 days (July 13th) unless renewed by a judge or until a full hearing is held.

Two separate lawsuits were filed and listened to by the judge. The first was filed on June 24 by the Unemployed Workers Union, a branch of the People’s Power Assembly. Their class-action lawsuit in the Baltimore Circuit Court sought a reversal to Governor Hogan’s decision as well as benefits for people whose cases had been pending in the state’s system.

On June 30, six unemployed Marylanders filed suit in the Baltimore Circuit Court. They claimed that the state was “unnecessarily and prematurely cutting a lifeline for struggling Marylanders and risk plunging tens of thousands of Maryland citizens into housing instability.”

The judge cited that in both cases the plaintiffs demonstrated “that they will suffer irreparable harm if this Temporary Restraining Order is not issued” and “the issuance of this Temporary Restraining Order is not contrary to public interest”

On June 1, Governor Hogan announced an end to the federal pandemic unemployment benefits, including the extra $300 weekly payment to those who filed for unemployment. Maryland was to join 24 other states in taking this action.  This was after Congress had extended the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance to September. 22 states have since ended the pandemic unemployment benefits. 

At the time, Hogan said, “While these federal programs provided important temporary relief, vaccines and jobs are now in good supply. And we have a critical problem where businesses across our state are trying to hire more people, but many are facing severe worker shortages. After 12 consecutive months of job growth, we look forward to getting more Marylanders back to work.”

Since September 2020, unemployment rates for Calvert,  Charles, and St. Mary’s counties have stayed relatively stagnant, according to statistics provided by the Maryland Department of Labor.

Maryland is not the only state to have lawsuits filed against it for ending federal unemployment early. The state of Indiana had a similar lawsuit against it in which the judge also sided with the plaintiffs and ordered the state to continue the supplemental benefits until further hearings are held.

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