A state judge on Thursday blocked a move by Maryland officials to cut off federal pandemic unemployment benefits two months before they were scheduled to expire.
Judge Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City granted a preliminary injunction in a case challenging the decision by Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, to discontinue the benefits beginning July 3.
The Maryland Department of Labor did not respond to a request for comment on whether it would appeal the injunction, which is to remain in place until the case comes to trial.
More than two dozen states, all but one led by Republican governors, have moved to cut off some or all of the federal benefits, saying they are discouraging people from seeking work at a time when some businesses are scrambling to staff up as the pandemic fades. The benefits, administered by the states, include a $300 weekly supplement to other unemployment insurance. They are funded by the federal government until Sept. 6.
Legal challenges to the early cutoff of the benefits have been raised in at least five states. In Indiana, the state’s court of appeals ordered officials on Monday to continue paying federal unemployment benefits.
Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, said the lawsuits essentially objected to “the rug being pulled out from under unemployed workers who were promised something” through September and were getting a receptive hearing from judges. “It’s a national economic policy,” he said, “but it will play out on a state-by-state basis.”
Oklahoma is the latest state to face a lawsuit seeking to compel it to continue the benefits. A woman in Tulsa filed a lawsuit on Wednesday and said she could not afford her expenses without the additional federal benefits after she lost her job.
Lawsuits in Ohio and Texas are pending.
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