As part of a lawsuit filed to force Maryland to maintain the benefits, state Secretary of Labor Tiffany Robinson testified in court Monday that the state must submit a new request to the federal government to withdraw from the program early.
Robinson told Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill that Maryland — which initially requested to end the program July 3 — will abide by the decision by the federal government. State officials rescinded their request to end the program after the court issued an order earlier this month to temporarily block Hogan’s directive.
Robinson said she was informed late Friday by email that the clock would reset.
The federal requirement means that, even without further action from the court, hundreds of thousands of jobless workers who are bracing for the possible end of a $300-a-week federal unemployment benefit will continue to collect it for several more weeks.
The continuation of benefits comes as Fletcher-Hill weighs whether to grant a preliminary injunction to two organizations representing unemployed workers that challenged Hogan over the early termination of the enhanced federal aid.
Fletcher-Hill held a day-long virtual hearing on the lawsuits Monday and said he plans to issue a decision by Tuesday morning. At the close of Monday’s hearing, the judge said he was surprised to learn that the state agreed to the 30-day notice and has no plans to challenge it.
Democratic leaders continued to urge Hogan to drop the case.
“The entire program terminates in September nationally,” House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery) tweeted. “Hogan is going to all this trouble just to try to cut people off from their benefits a few weeks early.”
The plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that nothing has changed since Fletcher-Hill issued a temporary restraining order earlier this month allowing the benefits to continue until July 13.
“Stay the course,” one of the plaintiff attorneys said in her closing argument of the judge’s decision to temporarily block Hogan’s order. “A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary measure, but these are extraordinary times.”
The plaintiffs’ lawyers said their clients have had to choose between eating and paying for transportation to find a job.
The jobless workers’ case was organized by the Public Justice Center in Baltimore, which is representing six unemployed workers, including hospitality and food service employees represented by Unite Here Local 7, and the Unemployed Workers Union, which is led by the Baltimore-based Peoples Power Assembly.
Maryland’s attorneys argued that the state was given authority to opt out of the program and that a preliminary injunction should be rejected to allow the state’s economy to continue to rebound. Hogan and Robinson are being represented by Venable LLC, a high-powered law firm with offices in Baltimore and across the country.
Hogan has said the additional federal benefits are hurting the state’s economic recovery, especially as coronavirus vaccines have become widely available and jobs go unfilled.
“There was a time when people really needed these benefits,” Hogan said last week. “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.”
At least 25 states led by Republican governors have decided to end the enhanced federal benefits, which Congress created to cushion the blow of the pandemic and funded through Sept. 6. The Maryland Department of Labor has said Hogan’s order would affect nearly 250,000 people, the majority of whom are gig workers who typically are not eligible to receive unemployment assistance but were given the allowance under changes made by Congress.
The lawsuit in Maryland is among about a handful that have been filed across the country. Last month, a judge ordered a preliminary injunction in a case in Indiana. A Texas judge rejected a request for a temporary injunction in a similar case.