Judge blocks Maryland governor from ending extended unemployment benefits

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GOP Gov. Larry Hogan tried to end a $300 federal unemployment insurance boost to workers in his state.

Unemployed workers in Maryland will continue to get a $300 boost to their weekly unemployment payments after a judge in Baltimore ruled Tuesday morning that the state's Republican governor, Larry Hogan, must continue to pay them.

Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill wrote in his decision that Hogan:

shall immediately take all actions necessary to ensure that Maryland residents continue to receive any and all expanded and/or supplemental unemployment benefits available to Maryland residents under the CARES Act, the ARPA, or any other existing federal source of unemployment benefits to the fullest extent allowed under Title 8 of the Labor and Employment Article of the Maryland Code.

Congress in March extended a federal increase in weekly unemployment payments until Sept. 6 to aid workers who lost their jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But Hogan was one of a number of Republican governors who announced an end to the federal boost to unemployment payments. The GOP governors claimed that the increase in unemployment insurance payments was disincentivizing unemployed workers from searching for jobs.

Hogan made a similar argument when he announced on June 1 that he was ending the federal unemployment payments.

"While these federal programs provided important temporary relief, vaccines and jobs are now in good supply," Hogan said in a statement at the time. "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."

Some economists have said, however, that it's not the unemployment payments that are primarily keeping workers from finding jobs. They say other factors, such as lack of child care or high child care costs, are keeping workers home.

WBAL TV reported that Maryland's own Department of Labor economist Michael Siers even testified during a hearing about whether Hogan could cancel the payments that many workers cite lack of childcare or fear of contracting COVID-19 — and not the added unemployment payments — in their reasons for not going back to work.

The economy has continued to improve as more people get vaccinated against COVID-19, which has allowed states to end some pandemic restrictions. I

In June, the economy added 850,000 jobs, beating economists' expectations and signaling that the economy is getting back on track.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.