BALTIMORE, Md. - Enhanced unemployment benefits driven by the pandemic are here to stay, at least for now, in Maryland.
A Baltimore County Circuit Court judge on Saturday blocked Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan's effort to end the enhanced benefits two months ahead of the September date set by Congress.
The enhanced benefits provide an extra $300 per week to unemployed people across the country. The enhanced benefits are set to expire in September.
But in Maryland, Gov. Hogan was acting on complaints from business leaders that the enhanced benefits were discouraging jobless Marylanders from seeking work. Hogan's order was set to take effect Saturday.
The judge ruled Saturday in favor of the plaintiffs who sued to block Gov. Hogan from ending the enhanced unemployment benefits early.
The judge granted the plaintiffs a temporary restraining order, blocking Hogan's decision for at least 10 days.
"In its global scope and in the anxiety that almost all people experience over the threat of disease, the impact of the pandemic has been universal, but the brief stories of these Plaintiffs reminds the Court that the impact of the pandemic has been cruelly uneven," Judge Lawrence P. Fletcher-Hill wrote in a memorandum on his ruling Saturday.
Maryland's unemployment rate was 6.1% in May, the latest period state data was available.
The Maryland Democratic party called the ruling a "big win for Maryland working families."
"Larry Hogan’s decision to prematurely cut off pandemic unemployment assistance while many Marylanders are still struggling to find work and child care was cruel, unnecessary, and blatantly political," Zachary Hudson, a spokesman for Maryland Democrats, said in a statement.
Michael Ricci, a spokesman for Gov. Hogan, says that the state is appealing Saturday's ruling.
"There is a record number of jobs available right now, and this program is making it harder to fill them and fully reopen our businesses," Ricci said in the statement. "It’s hurting our recovery across every region and industry."
The temporary restraining order lasts until at least July 13, when it can be extended or renewed. The judge said the court is working on scheduling the next hearing in the case.
This is a developing story. Check back later for updates.