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Maryland Senate passes emergency legislation to extend temporary unemployment benefits during coronavirus pandemic

Maryland’s Senate passed emergency legislation Monday to extend temporary unemployment benefits to employees who will lose their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With a 45-0 vote, the Senate approved legislation sponsored by Senate President Bill Ferguson and Sen. Clarence Lam, a Howard County Democrat, that allows the state to extend temporary unemployment benefits to workers who have to be quarantined or whose employers temporarily close. The legislation also makes people eligible for benefits when they have to leave their jobs due to risk of exposure or to care for an infected family member.

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The bill takes a number of other steps to address the pandemic’s impact in Maryland. It would cut costs for screening tests, improve access to telehealth services, prohibit price gouging and make it illegal for an employer to fire a worker because he or she is quarantined.

“This is a perfect example why the legislative branch of government matters,” Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said. “I’m very proud to support this bill and the administration’s and members’ efforts to get through this crisis.”

Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, a Baltimore County Democrat, noted the temporary unemployment benefits are badly needed now that Republican Gov. Larry Hogan ordered bars, sit-down restaurants, movie theaters and gyms to close Monday.

“No one wanted to be in this situation,” Ferguson said.

A House of Delegates version of the bill, sponsored by Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, is pending final approval.

The legislation must pass both chambers before advancing to Hogan’s desk for his signature. It would become law as soon as it is signed.

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