The state of Maryland is paying nearly $400,000 to a private law firm hired to defend Gov. Larry Hogan’s attempt to end federal unemployment benefits for residents, arguing that additional benefits were keeping people from returning to work.
Hogan attempted to end additional federal unemployment benefits in July, but was stopped by a Baltimore Circuit Court judge who allowed benefits to continue through Sept. 4.
“The governor’s attempt to end federal extended unemployment benefits early did appear to be primarily a political decision, not one based on data and research,” Kali Schumitz, director of communications and partner engagement at Maryland Center on Economic Policy, told The Center Square. “The evidence available at the time showed that it was not the additional federal benefits keeping people from returning to work, and the experience of other states that cut off the expanded federal benefits early has reaffirmed that.”
Schumitz said it is typical for the state to defend itself in court in cases in which the governor is sued for a policy decision. It went to a private firm in this case because the attorney general disagreed with the governor’s decision and then recused himself to avoid a conflict of interest, and the governor wanted to continue defending the decision.
In the opinion of the Maryland Center on Economic Policy, this was not a wise use of taxpayer money, Schumitz said.
“A healthy economy is one where everyone is able to afford necessities and where jobs pay competitive wages,” Schumitz said. “People who are out of work or not in the labor force cite other reasons far more often than unemployment benefits – inadequate job opportunities, concerns about getting COVID (which the Delta variant has vindicated), and responsibilities to care for children or other family members being the most common reasons. As a principle, ‘forcing’ people back to work by threatening their livelihood is a cruel way to run an economy.”
Schumitz said that in order for people to get back to work, the state must address the actual reasons people aren’t working, including pandemic-related public health needs, child and other caregiving responsibilities, accessible health insurance and paid time off.
This article was originally posted on Hogan’s attempt at ending federal unemployment benefits costs Maryland nearly $400,000