Maryland taxpayers stuck with $382,649.00 in attorneys fees over unemployment court battle

Unemployed Workers Union continue fight to for unpaid benefits
Posted at 2:34 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-07 09:44:28-04

A lawsuit filed against Governor Larry Hogan and Maryland Department of Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson over their attempts to cut off federal unemployment benefits early, has cost the state a staggering $382,649.00 in just one month.

Although the hourly wage is redacted, a copy of the firm's invoice shows 688.20 hours worked which would equate to an average of $555 per hour.

At the end of June, the state contracted the private law firm of Venable, LLP to represent the state since Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh refused to support Hogan and Robinson's decision to halt the benefits.

At the time Frosh tweeted, "I warned that cutting off unemployment benefits for Marylanders would have devastating consequences. I urged him to reverse course. Now he’s whining that I won’t defend him."

Hogan's office fired back saying, "The Attorney General has taken to Twitter to acknowledge that it was his decision to abdicate his constitutional obligation to defend the state, and hire outside counsel with taxpayer dollars."

The legal issues began in June after Hogan announced his intentions to cut off various enhanced unemployment benefits on July 3, more than two months before they were to expire.

That prompted the Unemployed Workers Union and Public Justice Center to file a lawsuit in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

A judge there eventually issued an injunction against the administration, prohibiting them from going forward with their plan. The Court of Appeals later turned away the state's request to override the order, which forced Hogan and Robinson to payout the benefits until they expire.

Despite September 6 being the expiration date, the groups are still battling the state in court claiming that thousands have yet to ever receive benefits that they're owed. According to the Labor Department, 19,248 claims are still awaiting review as of August 31.

RELATED: Unemployed Workers Union back in court, claims thousands still haven't received benefits

As of the week ending August 28, there were 68,738 claimants receiving benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and 39,119 claimants receiving Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).

MORE: 107,000+ jobless workers losing unemployment benefits in Maryland

The Department has also extended the deadline for jobless workers to file a claim under the PUA program through October 6, 2021. Up until that date, the Department will accept new initial claims for PUA benefits for weeks of unemployment ending between December 12, 2020, and September 4, 2021. Claimants are only eligible for PUA benefits for weeks they were unemployed or partially unemployed because of an approved COVID-19 related reason.