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Baltimore Leaders Urge Governor To Reinstate Unemployment Benefits

Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott delivers his inaugural address.
Mark Dennis/Courtesy of the Office of the Mayor
Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott, pictured delivering his inaugural address in December, says ending the pandemic unemployment benefits program early will worsen racial and economic disparities.

Baltimore’s top elected officials are calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to reverse his decision to end expanded unemployment benefits on July 3.

In a letter to Hogan on Monday, Mayor Brandon Scott, City Council President Nick Mosby and Comptroller Bill Henry said the decision to cut off the federally funded benefits two months before they expire will worsen existing racial and economic disparities — especially in Baltimore.

“This decision further overlooks the fact that Baltimore City’s unemployment rate is 31 percent higher than the State as a whole,” the leaders wrote. “There simply are not enough jobs available for out-of-work Baltimore residents.”

When Hogan announced the change at the beginning of the month, he attributed his decision to jobs that are “in good supply” and “severe worker shortages” faced by businesses attempting to hire.

However, the Baltimore leaders are just the latest among a growing list of Democratic elected officials urging the governor to reverse course.

In an op-ed last week in The Washington Post, Attorney General Brian Frosh said Hogan’s decision will have “devastating consequences.”

Hogan’s reasoning is “shortsighted and hurtful,” Senate President Bill Ferguson and Baltimore County Sen. Katherine Klausmeier, who chairs the legislature’s Joint Committee on Unemployment Insurance Oversight, wrote in their own letter earlier this month.

In an interview Monday afternoon, Scott said he agreed with state Del. Stephanie Smith, chair of the Baltimore City House delegation, when she called the move “policy cruelty.”

Scott said his office is inundated daily with messages from residents who struggle to access their unemployment benefits, even now, before the expanded benefits expire.

“You cannot think that it’s an appropriate time to end those benefits when you know that this pandemic has hit communities like Baltimore harder than other places,” he said.

If Hogan does not reverse the decision, Scott, Mosby and Henry are calling on the General Assembly to step in.

“There is too much at stake to halt unemployment benefits for Marylanders, especially when this support does not cost the State a dime,” they wrote. “Maryland leaders have a moral obligation to approach economic recovery efforts with an equity lens and protect families bracing ongoing economic uncertainty.”

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