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Lawsuit heads to federal court over Gov. Hogan's decision to cutoff unemployment benefits

2nd lawsuit filed
Posted at 11:57 AM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-01 10:33:08-04

BALTIMORE — A lawsuit filed by the Unemployed Workers Union against Governor Larry Hogan and the Maryland Department of Labor seeking to reverse their decision to cutoff federal unemployment benefits, has been moved to federal court.

Attorneys for the group initially filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court, wanting a judge to issue a temporary restraining order that would allow benefits to continue being paid out, while the case is litigated.

"We are urging the courts to make a decision quickly to address what can only be described as a humanitarian crisis for Maryland's unemployed workers," said Attorney Alec Summerfield. "These workers are facing foreclosures, car repossession, and economic disaster; this urgent crisis impacts entire families."

Lawyers representing the state however, filed a motion to have the case moved to federal court since it involves funds made available by congress.

A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for Friday at 11am.

The lawsuit centers on Hogan's announcement earlier this month, to cut off various unemployment programs starting July 3.

That includes weekly $300 Federal Pandemic and $100 Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation programs, which are broken down for you below.

Unemployment benefit cutoff breakdown

RELATED: Attorney representing MD unemployment claimants "hopeful" about lawsuit after Indiana ruling

Elected Democratic leaders and unions were outraged by the decision, arguing that the federal government authorized the benefits through September 6.

Hogan's office defended the decision, citing at least 24 other states who have imposed similar deadlines.

"Go anywhere in the state right now, and employers will tell you their top challenge is finding enough workers. In fact, there are more jobs available now than ever before," said Michael Ricci, Hogan's Director of Communications. "Even the White House has distanced itself from bonus benefits, saying that states have every right to opt out."

The union says they've also received over 2,500 grievances from workers who have filed but have not yet received their benefits.

Some claims they say have been in limbo for more than a year, while others have been flagged as potentially fraudulent.

The Labor Department says they've made significant progress in that regard.

"The state continues to successfully process more than 97% of claims even while facing an onslaught of fraudulent claims each week," said Ricci. "For the small fraction that are pending, state law unfortunately leaves claimants vulnerable to being stuck in a complicated adjudication process. The General Assembly failed to address this problem during its 2021 session."

Last week -- 37,088 claimants were waiting for ID verification. This week that number is down more than half to 18,460.

"Regardless of the outcome of our case, both Hogan and [Labor Secretary] Robinson can do the right thing and pay Marylanders what they are owed. They do not have to wait on the outcome of a lawsuit," said Summerfield and Union representative Sharon Black.

The Unemployed Workers Union aren't the only ones suing the governor and labor department.

Wednesday afternoon, six other private citizens filed a separate lawsuit in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

That too has been moved to federal court, but the Public Justice Center who is representing them is fighting to have their case remain at the state level.

"We have told the State’s attorneys we will be moving to remand on an emergency basis shortly, given there are no federal claims asserted in our case, and thus no basis for jurisdiction in federal court."

The second lawsuit can be read here.