Maryland will join two dozen other Republican-led states whose governors have decided to end enhanced unemployment benefits, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. announced late Tuesday.
The move, which takes effect on July 3, will end the $300 supplemental weekly payment that some out-of-work residents have been receiving under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.
Hogan’s decisions will end unemployment insurance checks at 26 weeks.
A pandemic-era change extended them to 39 weeks, but that will expire early next month.
Hogan’s move also ends a $100-per-week payment available to “mixed earners” — typically gig workers who have multiple sources of income.
In making the announcement, Hogan (R) cited Maryland’s improving economy, the increased availability of COVID-19 vaccines, and the growing number of “Help Wanted” signs springing up around the state.
The moves come as Republican leaders express the concern that unemployment assistance is keeping some workers from seeking new jobs.
“While these federal programs provided important temporary relief, vaccines and jobs are now in good supply,” said Hogan, a potential 2024 candidate for president, in a statement.
“And we have a critical problem where businesses across our state are trying to hire more people, but many are facing severe worker shortages. After 12 consecutive months of job growth, we look forward to getting more Marylanders back to work.”
Democrats said Hogan’s decision will harm working families.
“There have been many thoughtful decisions made by Governor Hogan during this pandemic. This is not one of them,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) in a statement.
“This rash and rushed decision will hurt Marylanders who have been hit the hardest during the pandemic, having lost jobs through no fault of their own. It feeds into a hard right-wing narrative that denies human dignity, puts profits over people, and puts politics over sound economic research.”
Del. Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s) said the state should have kept the commitment it made to keep enhanced benefits in place through August — particularly in light of difficulties that the Maryland Department of Labor had getting checks to some applicants.
“It’s easy to make the claim that folks are taking advantage or folks don’t want to work,” Davis said. “I think people do want to work.”
Many of the 24 Republican governors who decided to end supplement benefits in May said the aid served as a crutch. But research distributed by the economics team at JPMorgan Chase last week cast doubt on that theory.
The move to cut federal unemployment benefits seems “tied to politics, not economics,” those economists concluded, according to CNBC.
“While some of these states have tight labor markets and strong earnings growth, many of them do not,” researchers wrote.
Last month, Hogan — a business tycoon before entering politics — hinted that the state would soon curtail supplemental benefits.
“We’re hearing over and over again about businesses not able to staff up because people won’t come back to work,” he told reporters on May 14.
Davis, who chairs the House Committee on Economic Matters, said many of the people who are still out of work are struggling with child care issues, sick parents and other concerns.
He accused the state of “pulling the rug” from people who are in need, despite a commitment to continue passing on federal assistance to unemployed Marylanders through the summer.
“We could have waited. Another two months wasn’t going to kill us,” he said.
According to the statement issued by Hogan’s office, Maryland has “prioritized” the reopening of child care centers. “As of today, 92% of licensed providers in Maryland are open and operating.”
Since March 2020, the State of Maryland has paid out more than $12.3 billion in unemployment benefits to 730,759 recipients, resolving more than 97% of claims, the statement added.
In addition to ending the pass-through of supplemental federal benefits, Maryland has reinstated the requirement that aid recipients engage in three “reemployment activities” each week, beginning on July 4.
Those who fail to do so may become ineligible for future benefits.
Out-of-work Marylanders can submit a job application through the state’s workforce exchange, complete an American Job Center workshop, or attend a job fair.
Additional employment opportunities and services can be found at labor.maryland.gov/employment.
By Bruce DePuyt