ANNAPOLIS — Marylanders receiving unemployment will no longer get an extra $300 per week from the federal government starting in July.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced late Tuesday that the state will opt out of the supplemental benefits, which served as a lifeline for struggling Americans as the pandemic and related health restrictions wiped out jobs.
The expanded benefits would have lasted until September, and will continue throughout the summer in states that choose not to opt out of the programs.
Maryland will also reinstate job search requirements, which had been put on hold during the emergency.
“We have a critical problem where businesses across our state are trying to hire more people, but many are facing severe worker shortages,” Hogan said in a statement.
Maryland will opt out of these unemployment programs on July 3:
- The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which offers an additional $300 per week to people receiving regular unemployment benefits.
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which is available to people who aren’t eligible for traditional unemployment, such as gig workers and the self-employed.
- Pandemic Unemployment Emergency Compensation, which provides for people on unemployment who have exhausted their regular benefits.
- The Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation program, which provides an extra $100 per week to people who previously earned both employment income and self-employment income.
The move to end the programs received immediate criticism from lawmakers and from the Maryland Center on Economic Policy.
“Governor Hogan’s decision to needlessly end expanded federal unemployment assistance early is a slap in the face to Marylanders who have been struggling over the course of the pandemic to pay the rent and keep food on the table,” said Benjamin Orr, the president of the Center on Economic Policy.
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Nearly three-fourths of adults receiving unemployment in Maryland report they’re struggling to pay their usual expenses, the center said in a news release.
Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Democrat, condemned the move.
“This rash and rushed decision will hurt Marylanders who have been hit the hardest during the pandemic, having lost jobs through no fault of their own,” Ferguson said in a statement. “It feeds into a hard right-wing narrative that denies human dignity, puts profits over people, and puts politics over sound economic research.”
Ferguson urged Hogan to reverse or delay the decision to end the extra benefits.
At the start of the pandemic, federal lawmakers quickly passed a $600-per-week unemployment supplement to help the millions of people left out of work during the pandemic.
The extra benefits shrunk to $300 per week as the pandemic wore on. Those supplements were added to the normal unemployment benefits paid out in each state — in Maryland, up to $430 per week.
Hogan, a Republican, has said repeatedly that he believes the additional unemployment payments are keeping people out of work.
Economic experts say it’s more complicated than that. A variety of factors, including a lack of childcare and continuing health risks, are keeping employees out of the workforce. Workers forced to choose between paying for daycare or staying on unemployment might choose to stay home with their kids, experts say.
As vaccines became more widely available in recent months, Maryland’s COVID-19 metrics have steadily improved. Tuesday’s positivity rate of 1.42% was the lowest reported since the start of the pandemic.
Hogan last month lifted nearly all of Maryland’s remaining health precautions, including mask mandates and all remaining capacity limits at restaurants, businesses and other venues.
“While these federal (unemployment) programs provided important temporary relief, vaccines and jobs are now in good supply,” Hogan said Tuesday.
His office said that 24 other states have already said they will discontinue the enhanced benefits. Maryland has paid out more than $12 billion in unemployment benefits to 730,759 recipients since the start of the pandemic.