Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill issued a temporary restraining order Saturday as part of the lawsuits, blocking Hogan’s order, which was scheduled to take effect the same day. Hogan (R) appealed that ruling
Hogan then appealed to the Maryland Court of Appeals. However, in rejecting it, the state’s highest court noted that Fletcher-Hill said in his temporary restraining order that he would schedule a full hearing on the validity of a preliminary injunction as soon as possible on or after July 6. The temporary restraining order expires July 13.
Moreover, Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera wrote, the Court of Appeals could not hear the governor’s appeal on the temporary restraining order, because he had not yet responded to the workers’ claims in the original lawsuits.
Hogan has said the additional federal benefits are hurting the state’s economic recovery, especially as coronavirus vaccine has become widely available and jobs go unfilled.
“There are record numbers of jobs available,” Hogan spokesman Mike Ricci said in a statement in response to Monday’s ruling. “This program is making it harder to fill them, and hurting our restaurants and small businesses.”
He added: “The White House and the U.S. Secretary of Labor agree that governors can take this action, and most already have. We are confident the courts will ultimately rule in favor of our fight to get more Marylanders back to work and continue a booming economic recovery.”
At least 25 states led by Republican governors have decided to end the enhanced federal benefits, which Congress has funded through Sept. 6. The Maryland Department of Labor has said Hogan’s order would affect nearly 250,000 people who receive $300 per week in addition to their state unemployment benefits.
Hogan’s attempt to end the enhanced federal aid July 3 — two months early — faces a class-action lawsuit filed by the Unemployed Workers Union, which is led by the Baltimore-based Peoples Power Assembly. The other lawsuit was filed by six unemployed workers, including hospitality and food service employees represented by Unite Here Local 7.
Roxie Herbekian, president of Local 7, praised the higher court’s decision.
“It’s time for the administration to do the right thing and let Marylanders know that for now the federal unemployment benefits will be continued in Maryland,” Herbekian said.
The additional federal aid allows people who lost jobs in Maryland during the pandemic to apply for mixed earners unemployment compensation, pandemic emergency unemployment compensation and pandemic unemployment assistance, which helps gig workers and others who usually would not qualify for aid. Under Hogan’s order ending the enhanced federal aid, people collecting unemployment also would have to again prove they are looking for work.
In a tweet Monday, Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) cited the mounting legal costs of Hogan’s court battle.
“Mega-firm lawyers have now wasted Marylanders’ public dollars for THREE consecutive judicial losses on [unemployment insurance] cases,” Ferguson wrote.
In his decision to issue the temporary restraining order, Fletcher-Hill wrote that Hogan appeared to lack the authority to end the federal program early. He added that the plaintiffs’ stories of economic hardship reminded him that “the impact of the pandemic has been cruelly uneven.”