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Baltimore City leaders ask Governor to reverse unemployment decision

Posted at 6:56 PM, Jun 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-14 19:11:28-04

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — "It’s gonna be worse than what it is. We were barely holding on so now it’s gonna be worse," said Zenia Gates.

Gates is one of thousands of Marylanders who have relied on federal unemployment benefits to get through the pandemic. Her daycare business suffered because parents were working from home.

With the announcement from Gov. Larry Hogan that the federal programs are ending in July instead of September, she and many others are scrambling.

"They need to fix it because you’re putting people in a position now where they’re about to lose their homes, their cars their cellphones," said Gates.

Hogan said while these programs provided important temporary relief, vaccines and jobs are now in good supply and there’s a shortage of workers while businesses are trying to hire more people.

"That completely ignores the fact that there are still way more jobless workers than available jobs," said Baltimore City Comptroller Bill Henry.

The senate president has called for hogan to reconsider and this morning, Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott, City Council President Nick Mosby and Henry joined in, sending a letter asking for the federal benefits to be extended until September, which is funded by the American Rescue Plan.

"They cost the state of Maryland absolutely nothing," said Henry.

Hogan's office responded to the letter, saying there are actually more jobs available now than there were before the pandemic. The hospitality industry, for instance, has more than 6,000 job openings alone on the Maryland Workforce Exchange.

But people on these benefits say the job openings are not ones that will help them prosper in the long run.

"It’s very frustrating because there are people who do want to work but the hours are very up and down, sketchy, the wages are not guaranteed," said Mario Bory.

Henry said it will create a difficult situation in Baltimore City, where the unemployment rate is 31 percent higher than the state.

"What the governor is doing is not only forcing thousands of people to seek questionable work environments for below living wages, he’s also going to be condemning thousands of others to still suffer continued unemployment even with less of a safety net," said Henry.

Beginning the week of July 4, the Maryland Department of Labor will reinstate the requirement for all regular state unemployment insurance claimants to actively search for work by engaging in three reemployment activities each week.