Boosted Jobless Benefits Reinstated in Maryland Through Early September
In March, when the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was signed into law, it was clear that the public needed economic relief. Jobs were still hard to come by, and coronavirus vaccines were not yet widely available. So it made sense to pump a round of stimulus funds into Americans' bank accounts. It also made sense to boost unemployment benefits by $300 a week, what with so many people still being out of work.
That $300 weekly boost was initially set to expire in early September -- on Labor Day. But over the past number of weeks, 26 states have opted to end the unemployment boost ahead of schedule. The reason? Local labor shortages.
Many lawmakers have argued that boosted unemployment benefits disincentivize workers from returning to the labor force. This especially holds true for low- and minimum wage earners, who may be collecting more money from boosted unemployment than they would at an actual job.
Maryland was among the 26 states to pull the plug on boosted unemployment in advance of its early September expiration date. But Maryland residents have fought back, bringing lawsuits against the state to get those boosted benefits reinstated.
On July 13, a judge sided with the residents. And now, Maryland must continue making those boosted unemployment payments through Sept. 6, when they're set to expire on a national level.
A lifeline for Maryland's jobless
In the battle of pulling boosted unemployment, there are two sides to the story -- the worker side and the economic recovery side. Those who remain jobless argue that ending boosted benefits early puts them in a dire financial situation. Those on the side of local economies argue that if that boost remains in place, it could force a lot of businesses to shutter in the absence of being able to meet their staffing needs. That could, in turn, hinder economic recoveries on a local basis and possibly at the state level as well.
Both points are valid. But it's important to recognize that boosted unemployment isn't the only thing keeping some people out of the labor force. For many, a lack of affordable childcare is still an issue, though that may, to some degree, resolve once schools open back up for the 2021-2022 academic year.
There are also safety concerns to consider. Not everyone has been able to get a coronavirus vaccine, and for the unvaccinated, the idea of returning to work at a time when mask mandates have largely been lifted may be downright unsettling.
For now, Maryland's jobless workers are getting a lifeline, and will continue to receive their boosted benefits until the beginning of September. Governor Larry Hogan had originally sought to cut them off on July 3.
Maryland isn't the only state where jobless workers are suing to have their boosted benefits reinstated. Comparable lawsuits have cropped up in Indiana, Texas, and Ohio as well. And if similar rulings come through, it may spare a lot of unemployed Americans a world of near-term financial distress.
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