ANNAPOLIS, Md. - With the help of pro-bono lawyers, multiple Marylanders who are still waiting to receive pandemic unemployment assistance are now suing Governor Larry Hogan in an effort to halt the repeal of pandemic era federal unemployment assistance.
The Governor has promised to end the $300 COVID-19 federal unemployment benefits on July 3 amid complaints from business owners that they can’t find workers to fill positions. Doing so would also end the federal unemployment assistance about two months before the federal government had planned for funds to run out.
The class-action lawsuit, which also names Department of Labor Secretary Tiffany Robinson, was spearheaded by the Unemployed Workers Union (UWU) with goal of obtaining an injunction on the July 3rd deadline to end the $300 assistance. They’re also calling for immediate adjudication of all unemployment claims currently held-up in the system. UWU estimates there are over 30,000 people still waiting for benefits for various reasons.
The lawsuit names six plaintiffs who have faced complications filing for Maryland employment benefits. The attorneys behind the lawsuit say it will help everyone still waiting for assistance.
"The state continues to successfully process more than 97% of claims even while facing an onslaught of fraudulent claims each week. For the small fraction that are pending, state law unfortunately leaves claimants vulnerable to being stuck in a complicated adjudication process. The General Assembly failed to address this problem during its 2021 session," Governor Hogan’s Spokesperson Mike Ricci wrote FOX 5 in part of an emailed response.
One Maryland father, Dwayne Hogue, told FOX 5, he does agree with the Governor that certain actions need to be taken to fight fraud. But he also says finding a job not the same for everyone — and neither are their struggles trying to obtain benefits they qualify for through the state’s system.
For example, Hogue is mainly trained in private contract security work. The District Heights husband and father of four said he was approved through Maryland’s Beacon system but has not received any financial assistance for about 17 weeks. Hogue said that’s around $8,000 they could put toward food, rent and his job search.
"I’m sitting here pleading with these people saying, ‘Look, I need to feed my family. I need to provide for my family. I need to do this.’ ‘ And they said, ‘Well we’re going to put this on priority case,’ and it was like basically, you know, smoke being blown up my tail pipe. Unkept promises," he said.
Hogue told FOX 5 he is looking for contract security jobs he’s eligible for. When the eviction moratorium ends, Hogue said they’ll be on the chopping block.
The Unemployed Workers Union is concerned claimants like Hogue will not see back pay or any benefits they’ve qualified for, if they don’t get it before Hogan’s July deadline.
The state government, however, says that any claimant who has yet to receive benefits - like Hogue - will receive all owed benefits for the weeks of unemployment up to July 3.
The lawsuit claims Hogan and the Labor failed their duties.
One of the attorneys behind the lawsuit stressed that the situation is more complicated than it might seem at first glance.
"It’s not as simple as just going back to jobs. People are figuring out how they’re going to take care of their kids. People don’t have cars anymore because they go re-possessed. People have paid into this money. It’s the workers that pay the taxes that make unemployment insurance. They’re entitled to this money," said pro-bono attorney Alec Summerfield.