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Hogan and unemployment: falling down on the job | READER COMMENTARY

Gail Willis of Baltimore City, in front, rallied with others outside the Department of Labor office on North Calvert Street to bring attention to grievances of the unemployed in a protest organized by the Unemployed Workers Union, which is demanding that the Labor Department pay all claims now. July 6, 2021
Gail Willis of Baltimore City, in front, rallied with others outside the Department of Labor office on North Calvert Street to bring attention to grievances of the unemployed in a protest organized by the Unemployed Workers Union, which is demanding that the Labor Department pay all claims now. July 6, 2021 (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

What data drove the governor to try to cut benefits?

On July 2, Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill put a temporary stop to Gov. Larry Hogan’s effort to end enhanced federal unemployment benefits. Governor Hogan’s lawyers argued benefits are keeping people from working. However studies have found that supplemental benefits do not discourage people from returning to work. “We find no evidence that high [unemployment insurance] replacement rates drove job losses or slowed rehiring,” concluded one study from Yale economists. In a separate study by the University of Massachusetts, researchers found no evidence that the additional pandemic compensation held back the labor market recovery. Plus, a study by the Chicago Federal Reserve found that people collecting benefits search more than twice as intensely for jobs “as those who had exhausted their benefits.” And a new analysis by job site Indeed found job hunting had been muted in 12 states that opted out of federal unemployment programs. Indeed found job searches were 1% to 4% below the national average in states that stopped paying federal benefits.

The nation still has 8 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic, according to CNN. If demand for workers was exceeding supply, then the price of labor would be shooting up. Overall wage growth hasn’t increased, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. " No one says it’s a customer shortage if companies only offer high prices and bad service, yet some say it’s a labor shortage if companies offer low wages and bad benefits.

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Marylanders are entitled to see the statistics, facts and data Governor Hogan relied on when he acted to cut off federal unemployment benefits.

Steven Lasover, Baltimore

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Want to attract employees? Pay them more

This is so simple Mr. Hogan! If there are all those jobs out there needing to be filled, employers need to offer higher wages and better benefits in order to fill them!

Jim Dempsey, Edgewood

BEACON is down — again. What else is new?

Well, some people, including me, were blocked out again from filing their unemployment this month. The Maryland Department of Labor Unemployment Insurance BEACON system website announced that it was doing “maintenance” on three separate days in early July.

Gov. Hogan has done so little for Baltimore and Maryland; he only wanted to create a jumping off place to run for president. I have already changed my independent voter registration to Democrat and hope to join Harford County’s Democrats club for the next elections.

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Celie Hanauer, Abingdon

The time I spend trying to access my benefits would be better spent applying for jobs

I was laid off from Marriner Marketing, an ad agency located in Columbia, in March. I had been working at Marriner since the summer of my college graduation, more than eight years. Although I filed for unemployment the first week in April — and duly noted that I had received three week’s severance pay — I have not received any benefits as of this writing.

The reason I have been told for the delay, is that the severance pay from Marriner has not been verified yet by a “special agent.” Who is this special agent? Why can’t I speak to him or her? Why can’t you give me an ETA on when this special agent will contact my former employer to verify the severance? Would it be easier if they (meaning Marriner) reach out to you? How many special agents work for unemployment — just one? Once my former employer has been contacted, what are the next steps?

These are just some of the many questions I have asked my “case manager,” Alex, and any other human I’ve been able to reach. But the answer is always the same: They don’t have any answers. I feel like I’m in the twilight zone or talking to aliens in the very rare events that I am able to reach someone.

I am very disappointed in our system and quite honestly astonished that benefits could be held up this long for what seems to be nothing more than administrative understaffing.

The only person who has been at all responsive and helpful during this entire process is a gentleman named Evan, from Maryland Sen. Kathy Klausmeier’s office (not from unemployment, don’t you find that odd?). I reached out to Senator Klausmeier a while back to see if there was anything she could do to help since I was not having any luck with unemployment and there wasn’t any movement with my claim after months since I filed. Evan has been doing whatever he can to help/apply pressure and responds to my emails clearly and in a timely fashion.

The amount of time I spend every day on this is a full-time job. Do you know what I could be doing instead with this time? Applying to jobs.

Chelsea Simpson, Nottingham

Gov. Hogan’s attack on federal unemployment supplement ‘heartless’

Shame on Gov. Hogan for making such a terrible assumption of human character. Governor Hogan assumes that unemployed Maryland citizens are demonstrating poor ethics and character simply by applying for unemployment benefits, while in reality this aid is needed. The governor, if in doubt, could have simply reinstated a job search requirement. There is no excuse for cutting off the federally funded, $300 weekly unemployment supplement. Unfortunately, our governor’s action implies that Marylanders are untrustworthy, when most constituents need the weekly $300 for basic survival. What in the world does the governor hope to gain by depriving Maryland citizens of this much-needed financial support during their continuing struggles as the pandemic winds down? Many Marylanders are still feeling the effects of this social and economic crisis, so denying them support while they search for employment is gratuitous and heartless.

Arthur B. Robinson, Glen Burnie

The governor appears more concerned with businesses than individuals

I am a 21 year-old college student and father. I have been out of work since January, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and have been filing for unemployment benefits consistently since February. Yet, as I write this, I have still not been paid anything by Maryland unemployment. After reapplying in March, as the department instructed claimants to do, I still have not been paid, and unemployment insurance (UI) workers told me that because of me reapplying for benefits it will only take longer to receive payments. My child and I have been severely financially impacted by this unprofessionalism and lack of unity at UI. I have been waiting for benefits for months, and when I call, all they can say is “you have been moved to the high priority list.” Yet months still fly by. Now the governor wants to take away the federal bonus for unemployment benefits. Is the governor even concerned for his people getting the help they need? Or only businesses having the labor they need?

Taevon Stinnett, Windsor Mill

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