CommunityCoronavirusCovid-19William J. Ford

Judge Halts Hogan Attempt to Cut Federal Unemployment Benefits

A Baltimore judge ruled Tuesday in favor of unemployed workers who sought to stop Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s attempt to end expanded federal unemployment benefits.

Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill of the Baltimore City Circuit Court wrote in his opinion that the governor’s action would create “irreparable harm” to an estimated 175,000 unemployed workers if the coronavirus pandemic-related benefits stopped before the Sept. 6 deadline set by President Joe Biden.

“Plaintiffs have been strained economically and emotionally by the pandemic,” Fletcher-Hill wrote. “In its global scope and in the anxiety that almost all people experience over the threat of disease, the impact of the pandemic has been universal, but the brief stories of these plaintiffs remind the court that the impact of the pandemic has been cruelly uneven.”

The judge also noted the Maryland labor secretary “is bounded by Maryland law, not federal law, to maximize those available benefits.”

Hogan spokesman Michael Ricci said the administration “fundamentally disagree[s]” with the decision and that the lawsuit is “hurting our small businesses, jeopardizing our economic recovery and will cause significant job loss.”

Ricci said that though the Biden administration and U.S. Department of Labor permit states to withdraw from the federal program for the additional benefits, it would be futile to continue a legal battle that would likely outlast the program’s September deadline.

“While we firmly believe the law is on our side, actual adjudication of the case would extend beyond the end of the federal programs, forgoing the possibility of pursuing the matter further,” Ricci said in an emailed statement.

Hogan announced last month that he would end the enhanced benefits because of a decrease in confirmed coronavirus cases, widespread access to coronavirus vaccines and 12 months of job growth.

The deadline for ending those benefits, which included an additional $300 per week, was initially set for July 3. However, unemployed workers filed two separate lawsuits in Baltimore City Circuit Court challenging Hogan’s decision.

The plaintiffs are those with the Unemployed Workers Union led by the People Power Assembly of Baltimore and six workers with the union UNITE HERE Local 7. The attorneys that represented the plaintiffs included several from the nonprofit Public Justice Center and Gallagher Evelius & Jones of Baltimore.

The judge who ruled in Tuesday’s decision was the same who ruled in favor of the plaintiffs for a temporary restraining order to keep the benefits going through July 13.

Hogan appealed to the state’s Special Court of Appeals, but it denied the motion on July 3. He then took the case to the state Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of the plaintiffs two days later.

“This is such an important decision,” said Roxie Herbekian, president of UNITE HERE. “We’re so grateful for the Public Justice Center and Gallagher Evelius & Jones law firm. They did this work pro bono and it has helped so many members of our union. Gov. Hogan really miscalculated and underestimated how hard workers in the state were going to fight.”

Herbekian’s union led a press conference after the judge’s decision Tuesday to reiterate although the state administers the benefits program, more than $1 billion comes from the federal government.

Del. Lorig Chaurkodian (D-Montgomery County) said she and a few of her colleagues sent a letter to Hogan urging him to end the lawsuit and to fire Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson “because she has failed immensely across this entire crisis [and] failed far too many workers who are suffering.”

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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