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What's next for federal unemployment benefits in Maryland?

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Posted at 9:40 PM, Jul 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-06 07:20:03-04

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — It came down to the wire. The same day it was set to expire, a judge sided with claimants to continue federal unemployment programs… at least for ten more days.

"The people won this victory. The community won this victory. Lawyers argued it but it was really the people of the state and of Baltimore who raised their voices, who made it heard that they want their money and they want it now. They really won," said Alec Summerfield, a Maryland Unemployed Workers Union and pro bono attorney.

Despite being available until September, Gov. Larry Hogan gave notice at the beginning of June that federal unemployment benefits were going to end July 3, impacting 160,000 claimants.

Several Marylanders sued to halt that decision and just 14 hours before the federal benefits were set to expire, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill granted a temporary restraining order to extend them because the plaintiffs proved that they will suffer immediate, substantial, and irreparable harm.

“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,“ said Mike Ricci, Hogan's Director of Communications, after the ruling.

The state filed an appeal and it was denied.

The order is set to expire on July 13 unless it’s renewed or extended so the court will set a date later this week for a full hearing.

"It means momentum. This gives us ten days to really make our arguments in the courtroom, in the press and in the streets. 10 days that we didn’t have before and now time is on our side. We want to keep pushing and pushing until these benefits are all the way through September," said Summerfield.

In the meantime, claimants will still get their benefits, including the $300 a week from the federal government.

"Which means food on the table, gas in the car, keep holding on to your car from repossession, maybe pushing off foreclosure a little longer. We are talking life or death things here, paying for child care if you have to work," said Summerfield.

Summerfield said they are planning a protest Tuesday to deliver around 3,000 grievances to the Secretary of Labor's office in Baltimore.