The Maryland Senate on Thursday advanced to a final vote legislation aimed at protecting federal workers in the state from the next government shutdown.
The Senate’s action follows this week’s favorable vote in the Finance Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Delores Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat. The committee voted 10-0 to back legislation from Del. Jessica Feldmark, a Howard County Democrat, to ensure that federal employees who are required to work without pay can apply for unemployment benefits during the next shutdown.
During the recent federal government shutdown over President Donald Trump’s demands for a border wall, nonessential employees who were furloughed were able to apply for unemployment benefits. But those forced to work with no paycheck could not, because they can’t meet a state requirement that an unemployment recipient be available and willing to work if offered a job.
Feldmark’s legislation has already passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 119-20.
“It’s a fundamental question of fairness,” Feldmark, who represents parts of Baltimore and Howard counties, told The Baltimore Sun in January.
Meanwhile, a Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian Feldman, a Montgomery County Democrat, has passed the Senate by a vote of 45-1. It is pending in the House’s Economic Matters Committee.
Both chambers must pass a version of the bill for it to advance to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk for his signature.
Concerned about the effects of a recently ended partial federal government shutdown, Maryland lawmakers are considering ways to cope should politicians force another closure. Unemployment benefits for nonessential employees, pay for contract workers and help with utility bills are on the table.