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Higher unemployment insurance benefits would help Maryland get past economic downturn | READER COMMENTARY

Left to right, Terry Wells, Ned Atwater, owner, Peggy Au and James Dunn, hold Ploughboy Soups at Atwater's in the Belvedere Square Market. Atwater's was the winner of The Baltimore Sun's Best soups category last year.
Left to right, Terry Wells, Ned Atwater, owner, Peggy Au and James Dunn, hold Ploughboy Soups at Atwater's in the Belvedere Square Market. Atwater's was the winner of The Baltimore Sun's Best soups category last year. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

The people of Maryland are all trying to get through this together and come out on the other side healthy and ready to get back to a normal family life and work routine. And like every employer in Maryland, we are trying to do the same. We aim to be here as strong as ever when this is all over. Our original projection was for a two-week slowdown in sales. Most small and medium size businesses could weather this by delaying paying some bills and carefully reducing some staff hours. It now appears that the shutdown will last quite a bit longer and the recovery is to be much slower.

Because of this we need to make some immediate changes to our staff and expenses. No employer can deliver the news of layoffs without feeling like we could and should have done more to help the people we work with every day. For all our staff, reducing their pay is a burden, but for some is it life changing. Many companies are trying their best to supplement employees’ pay in the short term with paid time off and one-time payments, but these new projections are making the future more uncertain (“Maryland saw a five-fold jump in unemployment claims this week. Here’s what you need to know if you get laid off,” March 18).

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All employers pay into the state unemployment insurance fund to be there when formerly employed people need money for their basic day-to-day needs. We know the fund is not designed to handle the flood of claims that are coming as a result of virus-related layoffs. But it is our hope that you will find a way to increase the amount of money the state will distribute to people in need. Where under the current structure an employee may get approximately 60% of their existing pay, we ask that this be increased to 90% going forward until the virus is behind us.

We want to return to a strong economy and re-employ those that we unfortunately have to layoff. The Maryland unemployment fund will go a long way to help us all achieve this goal.

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Ned Atwater, Baltimore

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