Unions, politicians rally for unemployment benefits to stay while many employers look for workers

Posted at 12:15 PM, Jun 04, 2021

BALTIMORE — Maryland Comptroller and 2022 Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Peter Franchot is the latest publicly elected official to call on Governor Larry Hogan to reverse his decision to cutoff $300 in federally funded weekly unemployment benefits next month.

On Friday, Franchot joined UNITE HERE Local 7, the state's largest union of hospitality workers, for a rally outside the Baltimore Convention Center.

Franchot argues many hospitality workers at places such as hotels and entertainment venues remain laid off due to slow business.

He cites the Baltimore Convention Center and it's continued set up as a field hospital through October and an empty summer schedule at Royal Farms Arena as examples for why benefits should have been left in place.

RELATED: Maryland to discontinue enhanced pandemic unemployment benefits

Under Hogan's order residents will no longer be able to apply for the following federal programs after July 3, despite the federal government authorizing benefits through September 6.

  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which provides an additional $300 per week
  • Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC)
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

After that point, the Maryland Department of Labor will require anyone filing for state unemployment to once again begin actively searching for work in order to get benefits.

Hogan reasoned it was time for Maryland to join at least 24 other states who have imposed similar deadlines.

"We have a critical problem where businesses across our state are trying to hire more people, but many are facing severe worker shortages. After 12 consecutive months of job growth, we look forward to getting more Marylanders back to work.”

READ MORE: 'Labor pandemic' impacting restaurant operations

On Tuesday WMAR-2 News spoke with multiple restaurant owners throughout the state, who haven't been able to fully reopen due to trouble finding workers.

"The new pandemic is a labor shortage," said Susan Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association.

It’s not just restaurants, according to the National Federation of Independent Business Research Center, the construction, manufacturing, and transportation industries are experiencing the same problems. In April, a record 44% of small businesses had job openings they couldn’t fill.

Senate President Bill Ferguson has recommended Maryland take an approach that would offer additional financial incentives for Maryland residents on unemployment to return to work.

Baltimore City leaders also urged Hogan to continue offering the benefits.

"These funds cost the State of Maryland absolutely nothing and offer essential support for residents struggling to make ends meet during COVID-19. While the American Rescue Plan extends these benefits to September 6th, your decision leaves a two-month gap that Baltimore families cannot bear," wrote Mayor Brandon Scott, City Council President Nick Mosby and Comptroller Bill Henry, in a letter addressed to Hogan and State Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson.

Ferguson indicated the legislature could potentially get involved to try and override the Governor should he not reverse course.

The full letter from city leaders can be read below.