Maryland Democratic Party Chair Yvette Lewis Thursday slammed Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent to decision to reinstate the pre-pandemic requirement that Marylanders who receive unemployment insurance benefits be actively searching for work.
Hogan announced the decision at a news conference on Wednesday. The governor said that he directed the state’s Department of Labor to begin working with the federal government to reinstate work search requirements, which are scheduled to be put back into place in late June.
President Joe Biden has said that Americans who are offered jobs commensurate with their education level and who decline to accept those jobs will lose their unemployment insurance benefits. Biden has directed the U.S. Department of Labor to begin working with states to the reinstate the mandate.
For the better part of a year, the federal government has boosted state unemployment insurance systems with additional money from Washington, D.C. This has resulted in enhanced benefits, which in turn may have led to many unemployment insurance recipients refusing job offers because they can in many cases make more money by continuing to receive benefits than they can from returning to work, according to Republicans. Democrats have generally disputed this.
The enhanced unemployment insurance benefits will expire on Sept. 6 absent any action from Congress.
“This cruel decision by Governor Hogan to cut unemployment benefits is a solution in search of a problem. He is turning his back on Marylanders who are just trying to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head,” Lewis said in a statement to MarylandReporter.com.
Lewis added: “This isn’t the first time Governor Hogan has opposed life-saving aid for our state — he opposed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan that extended enhanced unemployment benefits, put checks in Marylanders’ pockets, and has put over 200 million shots in arms.”
Hogan’s communications director, Michael Ricci, said Lewis’ statement is a “total fabrication” because the state has NOT cut unemployment insurance benefits.
Ricci pointed out that the governor’s decision merely comports with Biden’s directive for federal and state collaboration on work search reinstatement.
Ricci blasted MarylandReporter.com for even considering to print Lewis’ remarks.
“It is regrettable that Maryland Reporter may choose to amplify this fabrication.”
MarylandReporter.com reached out to Maryland Democratic Party communications director Zachary Holman prior to speaking with Ricci to clarify that the statement he provided from Lewis did in fact pertain to work search requirements.
Holman confirmed that the statement did pertain to work search requirements and said the party stands by that statement.
The decision to reinstate work search requirements was praised by some of the state’s business leaders and lawmakers.
“Reinstating the search requirement is more important than ever. Employers cannot find employees and are having to close their doors due to staffing shortages,” Maryland Retailers Association President Cailey Locklair said. “With the majority of Marylanders immunized (65 percent of Marylanders have one dose to date with 2.5 million fully vaccinated) employees can safely go back to work.”
Del. Brian Chisholm (R-Anne Arundel) echoed similar sentiments.
“It is absolutely the right time. One of the biggest concerns I hear from small business owners is getting employees to return to work.”
Chisholm said that while enhanced unemployment benefits are the main culprit in preventing people from returning to work there are other issues at play such as childcare.
“Childcare definitely plays a part in the equation because even though schools are back open many families are still struggling to get their kids back into school full-time. There are certainly some parents that have to stay home to take care of their children.”
Chisholm said once schools fully reopen unemployed adults should follow suit and return to work.
“The sooner we can get back to normal and open everything back up, including the schools-there is no excuse for not going back to work at the point. And any able person who has the ability to go back to the marketplace should be encouraged to go back to the marketplace.”
The CDC updated its mask guidance on Thursday to say that people who are fully vaccinated do not for the most part have to wear masks either indoors or outdoors – a step to getting back to normal.