BALTIMORE (WJZ) — After several protests and losses in court, Governor Hogan’s administration argued in court Monday why a Baltimore judge should allow the state to end enhanced federal unemployment benefits.

Judge Fletcher-Hill on July 3 issued a temporary restraining order to continue the pandemic benefits, which add an additional $300 a week to unemployment checks. The governor’s office appealed, but Maryland’s Court of Appeals upheld the order through at least July 13. However, the governor hired private attorneys to appeal.

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Thousands of Marylanders looking for work have relied on the extra $300 a week from the federal benefits, but the Maryland labor department’s economist said Monday, “such benefits may be keeping people out of the labor force.”

In a hearing to determine Maryland’s participation in the federal benefits, that economist testified he never advised the governor or labor officials on whether to opt-out. Instead, a political appointee drafted that letter.

Labor secretary Tiffany Robinson testified the state is on the hook to administer the federal program. “the reimbursement is not going to be nearly that high. There’s going to be a significant shortfall. So, that will have to be covered by Maryland taxpayers,” she said.

She estimates that bill to be about $65 million. She said the state will only get so much in grants to cover the extra vendors and staff to process claims.

READ MORE: Maryland Court Of Appeals Upholds Temporary Restraining Order Keeping Federal Unemployment Benefits In Place

“What am I going to do to survive? How am I going to feed my daughter?” said Theresa Bayliss of Hagerstown.

If the judge allows the state to opt-out, the labor secretary testified the state would give a 30-day notice and benefits would continue into August. Funding for the program is set to expire on labor day, September 6.

Judge Fletcher- Hill will deliver a decision by 10 a.m. tomorrow morning.

 

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Paul Gessler