Baltimore City Mayor Brandon M. Scott, City Council President Nick J. Mosby, and City Comptroller Bill Henry this morning sent a letter to Governor Larry Hogan urging him to reverse his decision to halt federally-funded unemployment benefits.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, the governor earlier this month announced that Maryland will discontinue its participation in pandemic unemployment programs that enhance benefits, including the extra $300 weekly payments and coverage for the self-employed.
According to the letter:
Your decision to prematurely halt federally-funded unemployment benefits is concerning, and we strongly urge you to reconsider. 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.
A commitment to equity is an essential aspect of leadership, especially during recovery efforts. Federal programs like unemployment benefits are intended to support vulnerable populations who are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. However, failing to apply a true equity lens ignores key racial and economic disparities and will likely worsen gaps that already exist.
This decision further overlooks the fact that Baltimore City’s unemployment rate is 31 percent higher than the State as a whole. There simply are not enough jobs available for out-of-work Baltimore residents. Consequently, not only will thousands in Baltimore be forced to seek work in hazardous environments that fail to offer living wages, but thousands more will continue enduring joblessness with a weakened safety net.
To date, 25 states have announced that they will discontinue enhanced pandemic federal unemployment benefits, according to recent U.S. Department of Labor data.
As previously reported on Conduit Street, Maryland is poised to return to its standard work-search requirements for unemployment benefits, which were suspended amidst the pandemic. Beginning the week of July 4, Labor will reinstate the standard requirement for all regular state unemployment insurance claimants to actively search for work by engaging in three reemployment activities each week.