Judges Halt 2 States—Maryland And Indiana—From Ending $300 Covid Unemployment Benefits

Topline

As dozens of states cut off the federal government’s $300-a-week unemployment checks early, judges are now pushing back, ordering Maryland and Indiana to continue offering these extra benefits, and preserving a program advocates say is still necessary but Republican state officials argue is holding back the economic recovery.

Key Facts

A state judge in Baltimore issued a temporary restraining order Saturday morning barring Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan from moving forward with his plans to shut off $300 checks and other enhanced federal unemployment benefits starting Sunday, according to a decision shared with Forbes by an attorney who helped sue Hogan last month.

Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill suggested the state probably doesn’t have the power to turn down unemployment money offered up for free by the federal government.

Fletcher-Hill’s order expires in 10 days, and Hogan spokesperson Michael Ricci told Forbes the governor — who chose to phase out benefits due to Maryland’s soaring vaccination rates and falling unemployment rates — plans on appealing the ruling.

Some Texas residents are also suing their state over Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to halt extra unemployment checks, but a state court judge denied their request for a restraining order last week, the Dallas Morning News reported.

Crucial Quote

“There is a record number of jobs available right now, and this program is making it harder to fill them and fully reopen our businesses. It’s hurting our recovery across every region and industry,” Hogan spokesperson Ricci wrote in a statement to Forbes.

Chief Critic

“We find it unfortunate that Governor Hogan wants so badly to continue to try to deny fully federally funded life-sustaining benefits to hundreds of thousands of Marylanders, particularly given the well-reasoned and thorough opinion of the Circuit Court judge,” Sally Dworak-Fisher, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, wrote Saturday.

Big Number

26. That’s at least how many states are planning on ending extra unemployment benefits before they naturally expire in September, according to CNN. All of those states have Republican governors except Louisiana, which is run by Gov. John Bel Edwards (D).

Key Background

After Covid-19 forced tens of millions of Americans onto unemployment rolls last spring, Congress bolstered the often-meager benefits states offer to jobless workers, sending supplemental weekly checks to all unemployed people and setting up new programs for self-employed Americans. The latest round of enhanced unemployment benefits was passed this March and is set to end in early September. Critics say this program is no longer necessary: Most states have fully opened their economies after more than a year of pandemic restrictions, millions of jobs are currently unfilled according to federal data, and generous unemployment perks could disincentivize people from returning to work, they argue. However, supporters say these payments are still important because the unemployment rate is still lingering above pre-pandemic levels, and some economic sectors still haven’t fully recovered.

Tangent

Some 52% of American adults say the $300-a-week supplemental unemployment checks should end immediately, according to a June poll sponsored by the New York Times.

Further Reading

More jobless Americans are suing to get their pandemic unemployment benefits back (CNN)

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