Welcome

Maryland Gives Up Fight to Cut Off U.S. Pandemic Jobless Aid (1)

July 13, 2021, 2:30 PM; Updated: July 13, 2021, 5:59 PM

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is ending the state’s fight to terminate enhanced jobless aid for its workers weeks before the federal programs are scheduled to expire.

A spokesman for the two-term Republican said Tuesday the state won’t appeal a Maryland judge’s order issued earlier in the day enjoining it from prematurely cutting off its participation in the coronavirus stimulus programs created by Congress and scheduled to expire on Sept. 6.

The court order prevents Maryland officials from abandoning the federal benefits for gig workers, extra weeks of payments for those who have exhausted their usual time limit, and the bonus $300 per week for all unemployment recipients. Judge Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill of the Baltimore City Circuit Court issued his preliminary injunction on the same day that a previous 10-day temporary restraining order was set to expire.

“We fundamentally disagree with today’s decision. This lawsuit is hurting our small businesses, jeopardizing our economic recovery, and will cause significant job loss,” said the governor’s spokesman, Mike Ricci. “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.”

Maryland was one of at least 26 states where officials had announced plans to give up the federal enhanced benefits before the Sept. 6 end date set by Congress—a move that the overwhelmingly Republican group of governors made in response to businesses’ claims that the extra benefits were making it difficult to hire enough workers. At least five states, including Hogan’s, have been sued by workers, clergy groups, and others challenging the governors’ legal authority to end the aid. An Indiana judge also has ordered that state to continue the federal benefits, contrary to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) plans.

Similar lawsuits are moving forward in Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Even if the Maryland judge had ruled in Hogan’s favor, the state would have been compelled to continue the Congressional benefits at least through Aug. 13, just a few weeks before their sunset expiration, as the U.S. Department of Labor had said Monday it would require a new 30-day notice of termination, because the prior exit attempt was blocked by the court.

“We learned just yesterday that the governor is using all of this taxpayer money to defend a lawsuit where the difference is a matter of just a couple of weeks,” said Robbie Leonard, a Baltimore attorney who helped represent the plaintiffs. “I hope that Tiffany Robinson,” the state’s labor secretary, “properly instructs the staff on what’s going on with the legal proceedings so that nobody falls through the cracks and people continue receiving their benefits.”

(Updates with new headline, new reporting to reflect that Gov. Hogan won't appeal)

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Marr in Atlanta at cmarr@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com

To read more articles log in. To learn more about a subscription click here.