A 35-year-old single mother ripped Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent decision to discontinue federal unemployment benefits, calling it “discrimination” that has left her scrambling to figure out how she is going to survive.
“It was like a slap in the face. I can’t believe he did that,” Lindsay Gallagher told MarylandReporter.com on Wednesday.
Gallagher is a Crofton resident who spent 18 years working as a purchasing manager. She has a seven-year-old son whom she said she has been unable to enroll in summer daycare due to extensive waitlists that prioritize placement for the children of essential workers.
“This is discrimination against single parents.”
Gallagher said she has been receiving food stamps and will now have to consider relying on additional welfare programs just to get by. Gallagher rejected the claim made by many Republicans that federal unemployment assistance discourages people from returning for work.
“I am not the type to just sit at home. I made more money at work than from unemployment.”
Gallagher said she now has about a month to both find a job and make daycare arrangements and that that is simply not enough time.
“I knew I had to find a job this summer but I wasn’t freaking out too bad because I thought my PUA was going to be going into September when my son will be in school for second grade.”
Hogan announced the decision late Tuesday afternoon in a statement. It means that effective Saturday, July 3 the state will no longer provide claimants with an extra $300 a week in benefits, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), or, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Those who are still owed the money or waiting for arbitration will receive back pay if approved. The federal guideline requires the state to hold an arbitration hearing within 21 days of filing, but that has been routinely violated with many waiting months to get their case resolved. There is no punishment for the violation.
The decision to discontinue the assistance nearly two months before the statutory deadline set by Congress garnered criticism from Democrats such as Senate President Bill Ferguson as well as progressive advocacy groups throughout the state.
Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City) echoed those sentiments, saying Hogan’s decision was both premature and political.
“We know that we are still going through a health pandemic…I’m also a little bit torn because the only folks that have taken action on this has been Republican governors…And as a governor (Hogan) who has in the past attempted to work with Democrats to make sure that we can lift all Marylanders. I am sorry to see that our governor has taken to the Republican playbook to hurt Marylanders.”
McCray added: “There are still a certain percentage of people in a number of our zip codes that are hurting and that are unemployed at this moment.”
McCray went on to note that maintaining the assistance would not have cost the state any money.
“This was still a federal government opportunity that would have lasted until September had the governor just let it stand in place.”
But not everybody said discontinuing the assistance is a bad thing.
Del. Brian Chisholm (R-Anne Arundel) said the governor’s decision was “long overdue” in part because many businesses are struggling to get employees to come back to work.
“There are businesses begging for good employees to come back-from the restaurants to the warehouses. If we don’t start to get people to come back to work and get back to normal it’s going to be even tougher to do it in the future.”
Chisholm added: “You can’t keep paying people not to produce a good or a service. Because what it inevitably leads to is out of control inflation, which is a danger to everybody at every single level.”
Chisholm said there are no longer any credible health reasons to fear going to back to work and that anyone who has not yet received a coronavirus vaccine, “simply doesn’t want it.”
More than 70% of Marylanders have received at least one dose of the vaccine. However, in majority-minority jurisdictions such as Baltimore City and Prince George’s County that figure is less than 50%.
Hogan’s communications director, Michael Ricci, said he could not comment on a “specific constituent’s comments without knowing more about their situation.” However, Ricci went on to say that there are “substantial resources available across the government to help people find work.” But that does not answer the childcare problem that parents are trying hard to solve.
Ricci challenged lawmakers critical of Hogan’s decision to come up with an alternative course of action.
“You’d have to be under a rock to not see that there is a severe worker shortage problem in the state and the country. What is their plan to address it?”
Maryland is now included among more than 20 other states that have decided to discontinue federal unemployment assistance before the authorization is set to expire. Republican governors lead all of the states that have made that decision, which has left single moms like Gallagher in a desperate situation.
“Us single mothers are stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Gallagher said.