Del. Stephanie Smith (D-Baltimore City) Thursday slammed Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent decision to discontinue Maryland’s participation in federal unemployment benefits, saying it will hurt the state’s most vulnerable residents.
“For many people that had lower-wage jobs, which are disproportionately compromised of women and people of color-the decisions our governor has made will have even more of a long-lasting impact because we are talking about people specifically who have worked, paid into unemployment insurance, and struggled through the state’s mismanagement of the unemployment insurance program to even get what was owed to them…and now they are not even able to tap into the last remnants of that federal assistance that was made available,” Smith told Maryland Reporter.com.
Smith added: “It was highly insensitive and cruel to think that this decision was in the best interests of every day Marylanders….Just as there is a little bit of breathing room being granted by the federal government, to pull the rug out from under people in the summer, is the height of cruelty and is insensitive.”
Smith noted that Hogan’s decision will not only mean an end to an extra $300 a week in benefits, but also the discontinuation of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
“It is a complete disaster. People are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, finally seeing a little bit of progress. It is not only insensitive, it is completely irresponsible.”
Sen. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore City) echoed similar sentiments.
“Hogan’s decision seems more political than sensible. I am worried cutting off benefits now will hurt people that most need the help. The unemployment rate, for Marylanders that have lost jobs through no fault of their own, has not significantly decreased.”
Carter noted that Marylanders of color have been hit hard by the pandemic and said she hopes the General Assembly soon will act to reverse Hogan’s decision on unemployment.
“Black workers have suffered a disproportionate share of the pandemic’s economic and public health burden. It is my hope the MD General Assembly will step in.”
But will that happen?
Senate President Bill Ferguson and Sen. Kathy Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County) wrote Hogan on Wednesday asking that he reconsider his decision to discontinue federal unemployment benefits effective July 3. They suggested Hogan instead create incentives to encourage Marylanders to rejoin the workforce. And the lawmakers hinted at legislative action should Hogan refuse to reverse course.
MarylandReporter.com contacted a spokesperson for Ferguson to inquire about the status of the request and the possibility of a special session. A response was not received by the deadline for this story.
While Democrats blasted Hogan’s decision on unemployment, Republicans praised it.
“More than anything right now, I believe the people need to realize that if we are going to get back to normalcy, people have to get back to work and stop depending on the government and be independent and work,” Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-Baltimore County) said.
Salling said the unemployment issue should not be politicized.
“This is not a political thing. It is not a Republican or Democratic thing. It comes down to just being responsible and being a good citizen.”
Del. Rick Impallaria (R-Baltimore and Harford) said Hogan’s decision was long overdue.
“It should have been done quite a while ago. I cannot drive past a shopping center where there are not a dozen signs out looking for help. And the number one complaint that we are receiving from businesses right now is that no one wants to work. Not that there isn’t work, no one wants to work.”
Impallaria added: “Why would we continue to pay people not to work when employers are begging for people to work?”