BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A Baltimore Judge ruled On Tuesday that enhanced federal unemployment benefits can continue until September.

A judge issued a preliminary injunction ordering the state to ensure those qualifying for unemployment keep getting enhanced federal benefits.

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“It’s the principle of the matter that they should have never cut it off in the first place. it’s unconscionable. I don’t understand how they sleep at night,” said Alex Dame.

“We have received excellent news in the David-Goliath fight,” said Roxie Herbekian.

‘Goliath’ is Governor Hogan and labor officials, who wanted to opt-out of the state’s involvement in the federal program, an extra $300 a week in pandemic unemployment aid.

“It’s my lifeline to keeping a roof over my head. It’s a lifeline to putting food on the table. The bills keep coming and they keep knocking at your door,” said Dame.

Attorneys for the governor argued such benefits are keeping people out of the labor force.

“It’s not true. there’s not a labor shortage. There’s a lot of competition out there,” said Kevin Baxter.

The judge wrote he thought state officials were making “very difficult decisions in all good faith,” pointing to secretary Robinson’s testimony on additional costs to the state to administer the federal program — the $65 million price tag.

However, in Monday’s hearing, the total cost for the state in the final two months was presented and the judge wrote that the price “would be only a fraction of that.”

“Hogan, you lost bro. Give it up,” said Adam Cunnigham.

The Governor’s Office said while it fundamentally disagrees with the order, it will not fight the injunction as the case would outlive the benefits, which expire on Labor Day, September 6.

We fundamentally disagree with today’s decision. This lawsuit is hurting our small businesses, jeopardizing our economic recovery, and will cause significant job loss. Most states have already ended enhanced benefits, and the White House and the US Department of Labor have affirmed that states have every right to do so. While we firmly believe the law is on our side, actual adjudication of the case would extend beyond the end of the federal programs, foregoing the possibility of pursuing the matter further.

With more jobs available than ever before, work search requirements for federal programs will go into effect next week. Claimants must search for work using the Maryland Workforce Exchange, which has over 250,000 jobs available across the state.

Unions who won in court said the benefits are no deterrent to finding work and are instead a necessity to staying afloat.

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“This whole thing was political. They really didn’t have an economic leg to stand on and it was just an attack on working people,” said Alec Summerfield, Attorney for Unemployed Workers Union.

The legal maneuvers are not finished. Attorneys for that unemployed workers union plan to file a class-action suit next week on behalf of thousands of Marylanders that say they are still owed their money.

A Statement from the Unemployed Workers Union:

Major Victory Today! We will continue to fight!

The Unemployed Workers Union is encouraged by today’s decision by Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill to grant a preliminary injunction to halt Governor Hogan’s plan to end federal pandemic benefits early.

Today’s court decision is a victory for unemployed Maryland workers, especially those who collect pandemic benefits. In many cases, the $300 a week assistance is the only fund’s workers who have exhausted benefits or are not covered under regular unemployment.

Alec Summerfield, attorney for the Unemployed Workers Union, stated, “It may make the difference whether a worker eats or not, or between paying a utility bill, car payment, mortgage or rent.”

Summerfield continued, “This addresses a part of our lawsuit; the second part revolves around the thousands of workers who have not seen a penny of their benefits, some for as long as a year, held up in the dysfunctional Labor Department’s Unemployment Division.”

Sharon Black, a representative of the Unemployed Workers Union, added, “We will not stop until every worker receives the benefits that they are owed; this includes continuing our lawsuit and holding protests and assemblies where workers can speak out.”

Unemployment benefits are a right!

Read the memorandum opinion and preliminary injunction below:

 

 

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Paul Gessler