Judge schedules hearing that could further extend unemployment benefits, Franchot and workers denounce Hogan’s decisions

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A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge has scheduled a Friday afternoon hearing on a motion to prevent Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) from suspending the expansion of federal unemployment benefits early in the Maryland.

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A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge has scheduled a Friday afternoon hearing on a motion to prevent Governor Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) from suspending the expansion of federal unemployment benefits early in the Maryland.

The hearing comes after a series of legal maneuvers over Independence Day weekend. Saturday, Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill Posted a temporary injunction to suspend Hogan’s suspension of these unemployment benefits for 10 days.

Hogan is facing two lawsuits filed by unemployed Maryland over its decision. Lawyers for the Public Justice Center and the Unemployed Workers Union have each filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to maintain federal unemployment benefits until early September.

The extended benefits program was created by Congress and funded by a federal stimulus package until September. But Hogan announced in June that Maryland would end the program two months earlier because employers in the state were struggling to find people to hire.

The Hogan administration has repeatedly tried to challenge the temporary restraining order, but judges from the Special Court of Appeal and the Court of Appeal have each ruled in favor of the unemployed. The judges’ actions continued expanded federal unemployment benefits, which were scheduled to expire at midnight on July 3, until the no-contact order expires on July 13.

Benefits are paid to people who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks, and they include payments of $ 300 to workers who historically have not been eligible to receive benefits – such as independent contractors and workers. concert.

Monday, Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal Mary Ellen Barbera Posted an order denying the Hogan administration’s request to hear the case. And Tuesday, Barbera rejected the Hogan administration’s motion to reconsider this decision.

If granted, a preliminary injunction would extend the temporary restraining order until the lawsuit is fully resolved, said Alec Summerfield, a Baltimore-based attorney who represents the Unemployed Union. The legal process will likely continue until September, Summerfield said.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in Indiana, Texas and Ohio. An Indiana judge recently ruled that the state should continue to pay federal benefits.

Also on Tuesday, Maryland Controller Peter VR Franchot (D) sent a letter to Hogan, urging him to reconsider his decision to end benefits earlier. Franchot wrote that he was disappointed with a letter the Hogan administration sent to the US Department of Labor, stating that they intended to end Maryland’s participation in unemployment and extended federal benefits on July 14. , the day after the temporary prohibition order expires.

“Deconstruct this economic bridge, which costs the State of Maryland nothing maintaining, will have significant consequences not only for jobless or underemployed Marylanders, but also for the economic well-being of our state, ”Franchot wrote. He estimated that the early termination of unemployment programs would reduce economic activity statewide by more than $ 1.1 billion over the next two months.

Franchot urged Hogan to reconsider other solutions, such as Colorado’s JumpStart program, to address temporary labor shortages while continuing to expand federal unemployment programs.

And on Tuesday afternoon, the unemployed gathered to demand resolution of 3,000 grievances filed by unemployed Maryland workers who did not receive their benefits.

Gathered outside the Maryland Department of Labor building in downtown Baltimore in 95-degree weather, dozens of members of the Unemployed Workers Union – an advocacy group organized by the People’s Power Assembly – held signs reading ” unemployment benefits are a right. ”

Sharon Black of the Unemployed Workers Union, Summerfield and Reverend Annie Chambers walked into the office of Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson to deliver a letter calling for an emergency meeting “to resolve the more than 3,000 grievances of the unemployed in Maryland who are have not yet received their benefits. ”

About 70% of the 3,000 have not received any or have received only a small portion since last March, according to Summerfield.

The union also brought copies of 700 grievances to give to Robinson as a “sample” of the thousands of grievances they received. “These are almost too heavy to carry,” Black said.

“The class action lawsuit is very important to us, and we hope the courts will do the right thing, but we have always been prepared to know that our fight must continue regardless of what happens inside or outside. ‘outside the courts,’ said Black mentioned. “This means we will not rest until every unemployed person in Maryland receives their benefits.”

Shortly after the three men entered the building, around 20 union members marched in a circle, holding up signs in front of the Ministry of Labor building.

One of the union’s demands was to open offices so Marylanders whose claims were found to be fraudulent could show their IDs in person. According to the Ministry of Labor website as of Tuesday, the ministry offers limited in-person services by appointment only.

Union members were told Robinson was not in the office, so they instead handed the letter and stack of grievances to an officer in the building, Black said.

“It’s a shame and a slap in the face – that we can’t even get in there to hand over petitions as taxpaying citizens,” Chambers said.

Leroy Overton, 53, was one of the unemployed who came to protest with his fiancée. He said he lost his job in a courier service nine months ago, but stopped receiving unemployment benefits in May.

Overton said his claim was characterized as fraudulent and sent in his identification documents about four months ago, but still has not received compensation.

“They couldn’t give me an explanation,” he said. “I’ve been calling for ten weeks and they keep saying the same thing: that they are going to investigate the fraud.

Since then, Overton has had to abandon his apartment and move in with his fiancee. “I’m about to lose everything,” he said.

In their class action lawsuit, the union for the unemployed is not only trying to overturn Hogan’s decision to cut federal programs early, but also seek to assert their rights to withheld unemployment benefits and speed up the claims process for them. people whose cases are pending.

Once there is a more permanent ruling on the preliminary injunction, plaintiffs will push the judge to a hearing on that part of the trial, Summerfield said.

“As we move forward I think more and more attention will be paid to this part of the fight,” he said.

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