Maryland officials attempted to terminate federal pandemic unemployment benefits two months before they were due to expire, but a state judge halted their efforts on Thursday, according to reports.
Judge Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City granted a preliminary injunction in a case challenging the decision by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to terminate the benefits on July 3, according to the Baltimore Sun. The state was ordered to “immediately take all actions necessary to ensure that Maryland residents continue to receive any and all expanded and/or supplemental unemployment benefits,” according to the judge.
In response to a request for comment on whether the Maryland Department of Labor would appeal the injunction, which is to remain in effect until the case goes to trial, the department did not respond.
At a time when some businesses are scrambling to staff up as the flu pandemic fades, more than two dozen states, all but one led by Republican governors, have moved to cut off some or all of the federal benefits, claiming they are discouraging people from seeking work. In addition to other unemployment insurance benefits, the benefits are administered by the states and include a $300 weekly supplement to those benefits. They will be supported by the federal government until September 6, 2018.
At least five states have filed lawsuits against the federal government over the early termination of benefits. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled on Monday that state officials must continue to pay federal unemployment benefits until further notice.
A progressive think tank, the Century Foundation, said the lawsuits were essentially a response to “the rug being pulled out from under unemployed workers who were promised something” until September, and that the lawsuits were receiving favourable treatment from the courts at the time. It is a national economic policy, he explained, but it will be implemented on a state-by-state basis in practise.
Oklahoma has become the latest state to be targeted by a lawsuit that seeks to compel it to maintain the benefits. After losing her job, a woman in Tulsa filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, claiming she couldn’t afford her living expenses without the additional federal benefits she was entitled to.