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House Democrats Tell Hogan To End Court Fight Over Unemployment Benefits

Rachel Baye / WYPR

Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones and more than 80 other Democratic members of the House are calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to fire state Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson because of consistent problems delivering unemployment benefits throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and to stop fighting two class action lawsuits that challenge Hogan’s decision to end pandemic unemployment benefits roughly two months before the federal money paying for them is set to expire.

“Although jobs are returning, the recovery is uneven and slow,” the legislators wrote in a letter to Hogan Friday.

Jobs in some sectors have not returned yet, and may never come back, they wrote. The jobs that are available may be on the opposite side of the state as the workers who need them.

“Withdrawing unemployment too soon will have devastating consequences for many Marylanders and the State’s economy, with cascading effects, including eviction, car repossession, and slower economic recovery,” they wrote.

The letter echoes one of the arguments made by a lawyer for the plaintiffs in one of the two lawsuits during a hearing last week, that ending the expanded unemployment benefits early violates the intent of several state laws, including one the General Assembly passed this spring.

Last week, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill issued a temporary restraining order, extending benefits until July 13. A hearing scheduled for Monday morning could determine whether Fletcher-Hill issues a preliminary injunction in the two cases, further extending benefits while the cases progress in court.

During a press conference Wednesday, Hogan defended his decision to end the expanded benefits this month.

“There was a time where people really needed these benefits, and we paid out $13 billion in unemployment benefits,” he said. “But right now, the biggest problem we have is worker shortage and people not returning to work, and that's crippling businesses all across the state.”

Rachel Baye is a senior reporter and editor in WYPR's newsroom.
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